(Get some background info on Asturian cider & the Ciders of Spain in Part 1 of this two-part article)
The Ciders of Spain tasting consisted of eight ciders, from four different Asturian producers, presenting some of the diversity which can be found in that region. The tasting took place at Pastoral Artisan Pizza, Kitchen, and Bar, which provided some snacks to pair with the ciders. Paul W. Marks Co. also supplied some Spanish cheeses, which were presented with all of the fixings, including some membrillo. Cider and cheese is a no-brainer food pairing, and I certainly love the wonderful cheeses of Spain.
Chef de Cuisine Jeff Messer created a delicious wild mushroom pizza and maybe a cider isn't the first pairing you would consider for such a dish. However, there are good reasons why some of these ciders were a killer combination with the pizza. Umami is the fifth taste, often described as meaty or savory. There are a few different sources of umami and mushrooms are a rich source of guanylate, giving them a strong umami taste. Now, some of these Spanish ciders, especially the more traditional styles, possess significant amounts of glutamic acid, which also provides a strong umami taste. And when you combine two foods with umami, especially from different sources, it creates a synergistic effect that intensifies the umami taste. And that happened here, with the mushroom pizza and more traditional ciders. Just wow in your mouth, a savory explosion of flavor.
Sidra Fanjul extends back to the late 19th century, when the maternal grandfather of Don José Ramón Fanjúl Palacio established a cidery known as El Roblón. In 1944, Antón de la Sierra changed the name of the cidery to the family name, and he passionately defended the rights of Asturian ciders, battling taxes and helping to establish the first Cider Press Association of Asturias. When Anton died, his brothers took over the cider and decided in the 1970s to auction it. Fortunately, Anton´s sister, Josefa Fanjul, made the first and only bid, winning the cidery, and then handing over management of the business to her son Jose Antonio. Jose helped to restore and preserve some of the old equipment, eventually turning it over to his own son, Carlos, in the 1980s.
The Fanjul Sidra Natural (about $9.50/700ml) is a traditional, unfiltered sidra (with a 6% ABV) made from a blend of Asturian apples, such as Clara, Blanquina, Raxo, De la Riega, Xuanina, Perico, Verdialona, Regona and Durona de Tresali. One of its only non-traditional matters is that the sidra is fermented in oak rather than traditional chestnut. This is a dry cider, with a strong earthiness, intriguing apple flavors, some nutty accents and some tartness on the finish. Such a delicious and compelling cider, and very different from most American-made ciders. I love its strong umami element, seeing some similarity to Kimono/Yamahai Sake. It was a superb pairing with the mushroom pizza and ended up being one of my Top Three Sidras of this tasting.
Sidra Viuda de Angelón (the "widow of Angelon") was founded in 1947 by Alfredo Ordoñez Onís at the orchards of La Alameda. In 1978 the cidery was moved to La Teyera, Nava, home of the annual Asturian Cider Competition and the Museo de la Sidra de Asturias. It is still a family-owned and operated artisan cidery.
The 1947 Sidra de Nueva Expresion (about $13/750ml) is a petillant semi-dry cider (with a 6% ABV) made in a more modern style. It is a filtered sidra, made from estate apples, and possesses a strong, appealing apple aroma. On the palate, it presents as mostly dry, with only the slightest hint of sweetness, with a mild effervescent, enough to be a nice palate cleanser. It has delicious apple flavors with a lengthy pleasing finish. This was also one of my Top Three Sidras of the tasting.
The Viuda de Angelon Sidra Brut (about $16/750ml) is an off-dry sparkling dry cider (with a 6% ABV) that is produced by the Charmat method, creating the bubbly. It presents as mostly dry, with only a hint of sweetness, but many more bubbles than the 1947. It has a smooth, apple taste that will please many cider lovers. Personally, I preferred the milder effervescence of the 1947.
The Viuda de Angelon Sidra De Pera (about $3.50/330ml-available in a 4-pack) is a sparkling off-dry pear cider, a perry, with a 5.2% ABV. Using estate grown pears, this is an impressive cider, with a harmonious blend of earthiness with subtle pear flavor and a mild effervescence. It is dry and refreshing, with more depth than most perry ciders I have tasted before. Absolutely delicious and it too went very well with the mushroom pizza. It earns a spot in my Top Three Sidras of the tasting.
Guzmán Riestra Riestra was founded back in 1906 by Robustiano Riestra and it eventually was passed on to his daughter, Etelvina Riestra. With her husband, Ricardo Riestra Hortal, they eventually implemented some modernized advances. Today, the ciders is in the hands of Raul and Ruben Riestra, the great grandsons of the founder. The two ciders we tasted from their portfolio both are blends of apples from Asturias and Normandy.
The Sidra Natural Riestra (about $9.50/700ml) is a natural, dry, unfiltered sidra (with a 6% ABV) made in a very traditional fashion. It possesses only a very mild earthiness, with much more rich apple flavors and stronger tannins. It is dry with sour and bitter notes as well as good acidity. It went very well with the various cheeses, and it is said it holds up well with cured meats too.
The Guzman Riestra Sidra Brut Nature (about $16/750ml) is a sparkling dry sidra (with a 8% ABV) made in the Methode Champenoise. It is dry with moderate bubbles, a mild earthiness, a bright apple flavor , a hint of tropical fruit, and a pleasingly long finish. It has similar tannins to the other Riestra and this can stand up to stronger foods, like cured meats.
Sidra Trabanco was founded in 1925 by Emilio Trabanco and now the fourth generation is in control of the ciders. Over the years, the family has continued to improve the quality of their cider and add modern techniques and technology. In addition, they have expanded their business to include a number of new products.
The Sidra Avalon (about $4/33ml, available in a 4 pack) is a semidry sparkling cider (with a 5.5% ABV). It was the most American of all of the ciders, easy-drinking, bubbly and sweet with a strong burst of apple flavor and some tartness. This would appeal to those who enjoy some of the large, commercial ciders made in the U.S. I much prefer the more dry Spanish ciders, but there is certainly a market for this type of sweeter cider.
Overall, this was a fun and educational tasting, showcasing some of the diversity that can be found in the realm of Spanish sidra. My Top Three Favorites of the tasting were the Fanjul Sidra Natural, Viuda de Angelon Sidra De Pera and the 1947 Sidra de Nueva Expression. I generally prefer more traditional ciders and I love the earthy flavors that can be found in some of them. If you enjoy cider, then you need to explore Spanish ciders, to learn about a more than 2000 year old tradition. And be sure to pair your ciders with various foods, to learn how cider be do well with many different dishes.