It's not often I'm moved to write glowingly about a bottled cider. By and large the better supermarket offerings taste all too similar to me, pleasant enough but created for mass appeal with little in the way of a real unique character. Even the smaller traditional cider producers are forced to smooth out any rough edges if they want a supermarket listing, and it's for this reason I very rarely buy anything from their shelves now.
Take a step away from the national chains, and seek out farmshops, deli's and the like, and there are some gems to be found. Broadway Deli is one such place, and though the range of ciders on offer is small, they've thankfully avoided the usual suspects and gone for something truly special.
Once Upon A Tree are a Herefordshire based company, and relative newcomers to the cider scene. They've already achieved an enviable reputation for the quality of their ciders with several top awards under their belt. Cidermaker Simon Day comes from a background in winemaking, and it's this new approach, unencumbered by the sometimes unscientific traditions of cidermaking, which leads to ciders of such exceptional quality.
I tried the Marcle Ridge Dry Cider, made from a blend of Ellis Bitter, Brown's Apple, and Dabinett. The Brown's is a 'Vintage Quality' sharp cider apple, and an important contributor of acidity to the blend as well as bringing an aromatic quality to the cider. The cider is still, and properly dry, a rarity amongst the more commercial bottled ciders where a 'dry' is almost always medium or medium/dry at best. Apparently people don't like truly dry cider! I wonder how many people have actually had the opportunity to try a proper dry cider!
The Marcle Ridge is quite full flavoured with plenty of spicy tannins, and a decent dollop of acidity to balance the fullness and make for a very drinkable cider. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of this cider for myself is just how similar it tastes to our own 2008 vintage of Rockingham Forest Cider. If I was given this blind I'd probably guess it was our own, albeit polished up a little.
Lovely stuff, Karen liked it too, and there's a bottle of their single variety Dabinett waiting in the dark recesses of the pantry for another day.