You’ve known since childhood that “an Apple a day keeps the doctor away…” but now that you’re all grown up, you may have also discovered that when pressed for juice and allowed to ferment and age, apples can become just what the doctor ordered! We’re talking, of course, about cider, that underappreciated cousin of beer and wine that shows up in force at bars and bottle shops this time of year, announcing to all that Autumn is here.
At its simplest, cider is nothing more than the juice of pressed apples, fermented by the yeasts native to apple skins. It has a long history in the United States, going back to the first English colonies, and was more commonly consumed than beer in the years before the German and Irish immigrant populations and their beer brewing traditions became fully incorporated into the American melting pot. Nearly wiped out entirely by Prohibition, cidermaking has seen a renaissance in the last 40 years in parallel with craft brewing, winemaking, and artisan cheesemaking.
While we might associate ciders most often with the autumn colors of New York and New England, they are produced throughout the year and around the world, from the warm and wet English West Country; to the rolling fields of Normandy and Brittany; to the rustic, rugged mountains of the Basque Country. These regional ferments evolved in response to the same geographic, economic, and cultural constraints as the cheeses consumed in their vicinities, and as such make brilliant terroir pairings.
We’re delighted to share a flight of cheese and cider pairings from three esteemed cider and cheese producing regions, so that you can break free of the repressive stranglehold Pumpkin Spice has taken upon our society, and celebrate fall with the simple bliss of a classic harvest beverage.
Cidre Bouché 2016 Unfiltered Hard Apple Cider
Domaine Dupont (Pays D’Auge, Normandy, France)
From a region of apple growers influenced by their winemaking countrymen to the South comes this crisp, elegant, pleasantly sweet unfiltered Apple Cider; a perfect complement to its Norman counterpart, Camembert.
- Deep amber-bronze color and a clean nose with subtle citrus and berry notes
- A creamy mouthfeel, with rich, velvety effervescence like cream soda
- Its flavor profile is a rounded, focused sweetness reminiscent of red grapes. It makes its presence known right away, and then recedes, making room for powerful brine and cooked broccoli flavors of farmstead Camembert
Shacksbury Dry Hard Apple Cider
Shacksbury Cider (Vergennes, Vermont)
This light, tart, rustic cider is a cocktail of 10 distinct heirloom apple varieties grown in Vermont and England, fermented in part by yeasts native to the apples themselves. Aged over six months, its sweetness is present but dialed back, laying the stage for firm, lactic, tangy cheddar to work its magic.
- A pale yellow color, with yeast and funky barnyard aromas
- A light, smooth, clean mouthfeel, punctuated by large bubbles
- Dry, as its name suggests, with a prickly tartness, it is a wonderful complement to the tangy fruit and sweet cream notes in its Vermont counterpart, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Byhur “24” Sidra Apardunia
Astarbe Sagardotegia (Astigarraga, Basque Country, Spain)
An intensely dry bubbly with a hint of bitterness, produced from two proprietary apple varieties on a 450 year old estate in the heart of Basque cider country. Pairs wonderfully with Ossau-Iraty, or as a substitute for Champagne alongside a decadent a triple crème.
- Dark, yellow-orange color and clean, tart, green apple aromas
- Light and crisp on the tongue, highly effervescent, and as dry as they come
- With a balanced flavor profile, long finish, and slight hint of bitterness, it showcases the complex sweet, savory, pecan, and lanolin of Ossau-Iraty and other rich Basque sheep’s milk cheeses.
Written by: Tyler Frankenberg, Murray’s Cheese