Thursday, 12 March 2009

Sidra - The Next Big Thing?

The future is Spanish. I know, I've seen it, and I'm passing on this red-hot tip so that fashion-conscious cider drinkers don't have to miss out on the 'Next Big Thing'. After all, the last thing you want is to be caught drinking something 'Over-Ice' this year, and god forbid that you might be seen with a bottle of Pear Cider a full year after this particular 'Phenomenon' has been consigned to the Bin End sales. Putting aside flavour (which seems to be the golden rule for mass-market drinks brands), it's absolutely crucial that us poor, easily lead consumers, drink only what's in fashion right now, certainly not a 'Yesterday Drink', like say... Magners.

Poor old Magners, dramatically falling sales have finally spurred the good-old-boys of Clonmel to bring out Magners Pear, a new concept in 'Irish-cider-with-pear-flavour-kind-of-stuff', designed to look comfortingly old-fashioned. It's therefore such a shame that the Pear Cider bandwagon has already packed up, waved goodbye, and rolled out of town. Here's another 'Hot Tip'. Magners Gooseberry for 2010 anyone? Hmm, maybe not.

So, my prediction for the Cider Trend of 2009 is... El Gaitero Spanish Cider. Yes, that's right, Spanish cider (or Sidra), though sadly not a Sidra Natural, which would probably be a bit too hardcore for most people's taste. El Gaitero are one of the largest producers of cider in the traditional Sidra region of Asturias in Northern Spain. Their ciders, which are widely available throughout Spain, tend to be of the low alcohol, sweet and fizzy style. It's probably true to say that if you like Woodpecker, you'll probably like the El Gaitero range of sparkling ciders.

We have Waitrose to thank for introducing Spanish cider to the UK market, this being their second attempt at marketing a cider from Asturias. The first showing, several years ago, was a genuine Sidra Natural, dry, unfiltered, and sold in a traditional corked bottle. I can't remember the name of this sidra, but I do recall it had a little too much vinegar tainted for my taste. Perhaps not surprisingly it didn't catch on, and soon disappeared from Waitrose shelves. This new attempt to introduce sidra to the supermarket shopper may fair a little better.

The cider, which is described as Medium Dry on the bottle, is carbonated, filtered, and actually closer to Medium in sweetness. I was expecting a very commercial flavour, but was surprised to find quite a bit of genuine sidra character. There's a lovely sherberty tang which reminds me of the Co-op's Tillington Hills Cider before that was dumbed-down. A very slight vinegar taint is actually quite authentic. Take away the sweetness and your left with a reasonably authentic Asturian sidra.

All in all, quite a decent cider, and in hindsight perhaps a little too good to be the next big thing.

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