jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, January 09, 2010

An incredible dessert cider!

OK, this isn't wine, but it deserves a mention here. It's a dessert cider, made by the innovative Simon Day of Once Upon a Tree in Herefordshire. Expensive, but worth it.

Dragon Orchard Cider Blenheim Orange 2008
9.5% alcohol. A dessert cider made by concentrating apple juice by freezing it, and then fermented over several months. Orange/gold colour. Sweet rich aromatics of apple and pear. The palate has lovely concentration with apricot and pear richness. Viscous with nice balance between the sweetness and the acidity. A brilliant effort, and truly unique. Hard to score, but on my ten-point beer and cider rating scale, it's certainly 9/10. (£15.95 for 375 ml bottle, here)


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Not wine, but beer and cider

Not wine, but beer and cider. Research for a Sunday Express column - these four got in. There are lots and lots of good ciders and beers out there, and they're all very affordable, too - unlike wine, you don't pay an awful lot more for the best beer or cider than you do for the worst.

Henney’s Vintage Still Cider
Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, 6.5% alcohol
Yellow gold in colour, this still cider is appley and intense, with real depth of flavour. It tastes of late summer, with notes of apricots, herbs and apple crumble, and is the sort of cider you could serve with food. 8/10

Gaymer’s Somerset Medium Dry Cider
Tesco, 5.8% alcohol
Orange gold, with just a little bit of fizziness. This is a fresh style of cider, with tangy, pleasantly bitter apple character and a hint of sweetness that rounds out the palate. Just a hint of tannin, too. 7.5/10

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold Ale
(Tesco, 4.7% alcohol)
Zesty and crisp, this is a golden coloured beer with pleasantly bitter, hoppy notes adding complexity and making it really food friendly. I’m even getting some lemon and orange peel notes. 8/10

Brakespear Triple Bottle Conditioned Ale
(£1.99 Sainsbury’s, Booths, Asda, Co-op, 7.2% alcohol)
A rich, complex, malty, toffeed beer with warm fudgey flavours kept fresh by some bitter hoppiness. There’s great balance here between the richness and the freshness. Quite special. 8.5/10

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ciders from Once Upon a Tree

UK-based winemaker Simon Day has turned his hand to cider making, and 2008 sees the first releases from his new company Once Upon a Tree. The idea is to take top quality cider apples from Dragon Orchard in Herefordshire and produce something special from them. Here's what I made of them.

2007 Miracle Ridge
A still dry table cider, 7.5% alcohol, made from Ellis Bitter, Brown's Apple and Dabinett. Beautifully aromatic nose is sweet and rounded with notes of honey, spice and apple crumble. The palate is dry but full, with broad fruit, a hint of citrus and a savoury, food-friendly finish. Really appealing.

2007 Dabinett
A single varietal still table cider at 7.5% alcohol. Warm, aromatic nose with sweet honeyed apple notes and a hint of green leafiness. Quite pure. The palate is fresh with a herby, citrussy kick. Really tangy, like biting into a just-ripe apple. There's a bit of tannic grip here too, leaving a pleasing bitter finish. One for food.

2007 Putley Gold
A medium-dry still table cider at 7.5% alcohol, made from Dabinett, Ellis Bitter and Brown's Apple. Sweet open appley nose with a nice herby tang. There's a rounded character to the off-dry palate, and with the high acidity and subtly bitter tang it doesn't taste too sweet.

Conclusion? They're really good, interesting drinks, and at £3.95 for a 75 cl bottle they are very fairly priced. You could use these at table as you would wine.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not wine but cider

I've been trying quite a few ciders of late. Cider is, of course, not wine, but it is nonetheless quite a serious drink (or, should I say, has the potential to be a serious drink).

A few years back cider was a Loser Drink. The only people who drank it had some sort of link with the west country, wore cardigans, didn't shave (much) and liked to listen to folk music. As well as teenagers who couldn't handle the taste of beer. But now it is back in fashion, which is a Good Thing.

I avoided it for the best part of two decades after having a very bad experience at university watching the superbowl at a party in Founder's East (the girl's wing of Royal Holloway [University of London]'s rather grand Founder's building), where I spent a very happy if rather crazy year as a resident (although, I was of course, at least most of the time in Founder's West).

But now I'm back drinking cider, which is potentially a great British drink, as well as a great Normandy/Brittany drink. It can be food compatible, complex and beguiling, and is usually remarkably affordable, too, when compared with high quality wine.

Tonight, after a long session in the nets (that's where we practice cricket, for the benefit of non-brits and colonials), two ciders that are rather good.

Aspall Premier Cru Dry Suffolk Cyder
7% alcohol, made with 100% fresh pressed apple juice. Quite light in colour with a green gling. Very fresh appley nose leads to a palate that is savoury, fresh, a bit lemony and crisp, with tight, pure appley fruit. Not too cidery, and a bit like a gently sparkling wine. Prosecco-like? Seriously refined. 8.5/10 (Tesco, Waitrose)
Henney's Dry Cider, Frome Valley, Herefordshire
Very attractively packaged. Yellow/gold colour, 6% alcohol, made from fresh pressed apple juice. Sweet appley aroma. Palate has a delicious bittersweet apple character with some spicy bite and a bit of tannic grip. Very fruity and quite pure, with a nice savoury twist. 7.5/10 (Tesco)


Monday, March 31, 2008


Spent an interesting day down at the Gaymer Cider Company in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. The goal was to learn a bit more about cider. Now cider isn't wine, but it does have quite a lot in common with it. For a start, there are different varieties of cider apple, and the same variety grown in different places will produce ciders that taste different. Cider can be made in lots of different ways, but at its simplest, it is the juice of crushed apples that is then fermented to dryness by yeasts.

The Gaymer Cider Company is not small. It's the second biggest cider company in the UK, and is part of the Constellation drinks portfolio. But the ciders I tried today were all pretty good, and even the more commercial products have a lot going for them. I guess it is like the wine world: there's no reason why large brands can't coexist with small, artisanal producers, and some of the big companies are better at doing big brands than others. Gaymers are launching a new county series, with ciders from Devon and Somerset. I particularly like the Somerset cider, which is dry and complex - and potentially food friendly.

I spent some time with the head cidermaker Bob Cork, who fed me plenty of seriously technical information and answered my rather geeky questions very well. You may be interested to learn that you can get brettanomyces in cider, and that there's a bacterial problem in some 'rustic' ciders which involves rope-like growth of filament-forming bacteria. Mercaptans and sulfides can also be a problem in cider. I was left wanting to learn more, and eager to begin exploring a range of different ciders, armed with some new knowledge about how the stuff is made.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cider...without Rosie

Having a dog is great, but it's nice to get a break from her sometimes demanding presence. It also means the cats have the run of the house once again.
Tonight I'm trying a couple of ciders for a forthcoming Sunday Express article, both from Waitrose and made by Herefordshire cidery (is that the right term?) Dunkertons. They're pretty good.

The first, Dunkertons Premium Organic Cider, is a yellow gold colour and has a lovely sweet nose that's slightly funky, in a nice way. It has a medium-sweet, broad palate with a lovely fruity, spicy acidic bite. Bursting with complex flavours.

The second is drier: Dunkertons Black Fox cider. It has open appley aromas and the palate is quite savoury and just off-dry. There's a bit of bite: it's a grown-up cider that would be great with food. Both are around the £1.80 mark, if I recall correctly, which makes them great value.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Bank holiday boozing

My twin sister, Anne, her husband Dominic and their two nippers came to stay for the bank holiday weekend. We had a really good time, helped by the fact that our kids and theirs got on very well. Yesterday we headed up to London, spending a couple of hours at the Imperial War Museum and then heading over to Kensington Gardens for a picnic, lubricated with some Lindauer fizz. They live just round the corner from Trent Bridge in Nottingham, so we'll try to arrange a trip up there to correspond with a suitable game (we're talking cricket here). Dominic still hasn't quite forgiven me for taking him to see City play at Notts County (we're talking football now) several years ago when City were travelling the divisions. He's a rugger man, and so wasn't really prepared for the experience of being in the away end with the hardcore City boys. If I remember correctly we drew that one 1-1, with Goater getting one of his three yard specials to equalize and the city captain getting sent off quite early on.
Some nice wines over the weekend, of which my favourite was Henschke's Louis Semillon 2005 Eden Valley (£13 Waitrose). It's complex, tight and minerally with just a hint of struck match reduction and some richness as well as the lemony fruit. Stylish stuff.

We also had a bit of an impromptu beer and cider tasting, including a really weird Marzen Schlenkera Smokebeer from Bavaria that smelled like salami. I really enjoyed the Aspall Dry Premier Cru Suffolk Cyder, which is fresh, light and precise with zippy acidity. Almost Champagne like. Their website is www.aspall.co.uk, and you can get it in Asda and Sainsbury, I believe.

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