Axminster Craft Cider Yarlington Mill 2019

It might be November now but it is a very warm and sunny day here in Frankfurt with 15 degrees Celsius. Simply perfect for having cider! Today I’m going to review the Axminster Yarlington Mill from Devon, UK. In case you don’t remember, it is Nick Cunningham who stands behind the Axminster Craft Cider Co. As the name already indicates, the Yarlington is a single varietal cider made with chemical free, sustainably managed Yarlingtons grown in Nick’s friend 3rd generation orchard from Somerset. Let’s give it a try!

Company: Axminster Craft Cider 
Place of Origin: Axminster, Devon, UK
Apples: Yarlington Mill
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 6%
Package type: 500 ml clear glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, tumbler or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear deep amber with a small head that slowly reduces to a ring. Low carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong and slightly sweet with notes of raisins, cider apples, baked apples but also a bit chemical/phenolic. Remote notes of caramel, vanilla and butterscotch.

Taste: my first taste is moderately sweet with just a touch of acidity of lemon. Caramel, smokiness, raisins, baked apples, overripe apples, low bitterness and sweetener on the mid-palate. Finishes dry with medium astringency, butterscotch and a phenolic aftertaste.

Overall: After sampling the Axminster Craft Cider Dabinett & Sweet Coppin last year, I knew that Nick’s new cider will simply have to be good. And, it really is. After opening the bottle, the nose simply bursts out of it. The nose is very inviting and makes your mouth watery. It is clearly oxidized as you can judge from the notes of raisins and butterscotch. But it’s really lovely. After the first sip, you feel that you enter a sort of cider/caramel heaven with lovely smooth yet relatively strong tannins. The taste is long-lasting and clean without notes of funk. I enjoyed every drop of it. It’s a cider for both a cider aficionado and those who just start their cider adventure. Actually, I would dare to say that if you present a bottle of this cider to a cider newbie, I guarantee that you will turn this person to a cider lover. I would definitely buy more. 5/6  

Availability: directly from Axminster Cider Co or online from Scrattings or Slurp.

Price: Nick provided me with a sample. 

Tabun Cydr z Otomina Wytrawny 2019

The 2019 vintage of Wytrawny crafted by Michał of Tabun Cydr z Otomnina, Poland is a blend of old apple varieties such as Antonovka and Rennet apples along with a few varieties of dessert apples. Last year, I sampled their 2018 vintage. I’m curious to see how the 2019 vintage may taste like. Company: Restauracja Tabun
Place of Origin: Otomin, Pomerania, Poland
Apples: a blend of old apple varieties incl. Antonovka and Rennete along with dessert  apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: wytrawny (dry)
ABV: 5,9%
Package type: 
750 ml green glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass:
 white wine glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy golden yellow colour with a small head that reduces to a ring around the glass. Moderate carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong, literally pours out of the glass. Notes that come through are of ripe yellow apples, funk, green notes, wood and lemon. The aroma is strong at first but quickly weakens.

Taste: it starts dry with low acidity of lemon juice and lemon peel. On the mid-palate, watery with green notes, grapefruit juice, gentle off-notes from yeast and low astringency. Finishes with a refreshing touch of grapefruit.

Overall: If not a hint of wild notes and gentle off-notes coming from lees, one could think it is a lemon soft-drink with a surprisingly lingering taste. This is because the Wytrawny 2019 tastes more like a nice and refreshing citrusy spritzer, less than a cider. And this is because it, unfortunately, lacks body. I guess the proportion of dessert apples used for this blend might be just too high in my opinion. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy having the Wytrawny 2019 but I much more enjoyed Michał‘s Wytrawny Dziki 2019. I shared a bottle of the Wytrawny 2019 with a friend and she didn’t find it special either. Drinkable, pairing well with many foods but that’s it. I’m sorry, Michał. You know I like you but I have to be honest here. 3/6 

Availability: only in Poland for now at Restauracja Tabun in Otomin and from Alfroalko in Gdynia. In Warsaw from Zrodlo Niebanalnych Piw i Alkoholi and from Winnacja in Krakow.

Price: a bottle of this cider was provided by Michał (Restauracja Otomin)

Gutshof Kraatz Cydonia 2018

Quince is a quite tough fruit to work with due to its high astringency. For this reason, most fruit wine producers tend to blend it with apple juice or other fruit juice to reduce its astringency and make the fruit wine more palatable. But Florian Profitlich of Gutshof Kraatz took the risk and released a 100% quince wine made with locally sourced quinces in the Uckermark. Let’s try this beauty! 

Company: Gutshof Kraatz
Place of Origin: Nordwestuckermark-Kraatz, Germany
Fruits: made from quinces coming from local orchards
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 750ml clear glass wine bottle with screw cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden yellow with no head. No visible carbonation. Body is medium. Some sediment in the bottom.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong (literally pours out of the glass) and clear with dominating notes of quince with some lemon to it.

Taste: my first taste is bone dry with a moderate acidity of lemon. Quince, some bitter note incl. grapefruit-like bitterness and moderate astringency on the mid-palate. Finishes with a lovely and refreshing note of lemon.

Overall: If you don’t have a clue how a quince may taste like, then you should definitely sample the Gutshof Kraatz Cydonia 2018. Its scent and taste are all about quince. Although the nose is very strong and intense, I didn’t get many notes on the nose apart from the note of quince and citrusy notes of lemon. The palate seems to be more complex with more variety of notes that can be identified but still quince is the dominating one. Also, it has a very good length that lets you enjoy all these flavours that come out while tasting. Again, if you compare my tasting notes with Cydonia 2016 that I sampled previously, you will find significant differences, which shows how the weather may impact the taste of cider/wine. Due to the bone-dry taste and a bit high astringency, I wouldn’t recommend to drink it on its own but to rather pair it with food. If you choose Cydonia 2018 to pair with fish, asparagus or soft cheese I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 4.5/6    

Availability: from their online shop. In Frankfurt from Apfelweinhandlung.

Price: Florian contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their Apfelwein.

Tabun Cydr z Otomina Wytrawny Dziki 2019

It’s time for Polish cider! Today, I’m about to evaluate a cider from Tabun Cydr z Otomina made by Michał from Otomin. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts about Michał‘s cider made, he, like any other cider maker, likes to experiment. Especially that he is still trying to create the best possible cider. His Dziki (wild in Polish) is one of his recently released experiments. It’s made with 8 different apple varieties (a blend of old apple varieties and cookers) fermented with wild yeast. After fermentation, it has been aged for 6 months and then bottle conditioned.
As per Michał, his Dziki sells like hotcakes despite Covid-19.

Company: Restauracja Tabun
Place of Origin: Otomin, Pomerania, Poland
Apples: a blend of 8 apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: wytrawny (dry)
ABV: 6,7%
Package type: 
750 ml green glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass:
 white wine glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy bright straw yellow colour with no head. Low and natural carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma has very good intensity, literally pours out of the glass and is pleasantly refreshing with notes of lemon, grapefruit but also funk. In the background, very distant sulphur and something spicy.

Taste: my first taste is dry with low acidity of lemon and grapefruit. On the mid-palate, watery, smokiness, notes of funk, grapefruit peel and a hint of sulphur. Finishes with a pleasant and refreshing note of grapefruit peel followed by a touch of bitterness.

Overall: So far, my favourite cider made by Michał. It is lovely refreshing with notes of lemon and grapefruit but it’s not sour at the same time. Dziki has a good intensity on the nose, a good length along with complexity. It lacks a bit of body, which Michał sees as an advantage. But if you ask me, due to lack of body and a watery taste, one could say Dziki is something between a refreshing lemonade and white wine. An enjoyable one but still. This is the only comment I can make here. Again, since Dziki was fermented with wild yeast, and has some funkiness, not everyone will like e.g. my friend refused to drink it (good for me!). Overall, I’m not surprised that this cider is so popular within Tabun’s customers. I’m going to order some myself. Will pair well with fish, seafood or pizza. 4.5/6 

Availability: only in Poland for now at Restauracja Tabun in Otomin and from Alfroalko in Gdynia. Soon available in Warsaw from Zrodlo Niebanalnych Piw i Alkoholi and from Winnacja in Krakow.

Price: a bottle of this cider was provided by Michał (Restauracja Otomin)

Gutshof Kraatz Wilde Kerle 2018

In 2018, I sampled the Gutshof Kraatz Wilde Kerle 2016. At that point in time, this apple wine made a huge impression on me and landed in my top 10 ciders of 2018. Just a quick reminder, Wilde Kerle means Wild Buddies or Wild Things (if referring to Maurice Sendak’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’) in German. And, it’s entirely made from wildly grown wild apple varieties collected from three different locations.

When I visited Florian at Gutshof Kraatz last summer, Florian passed me a bottle of the 2018 vintage. It took me a while to review this drop but the right moment finally arrived. Now I’m going to share my thoughts about this apple wine with you.Company: Gutshof Kraatz
Place of Origin: Nordwestuckermark-Kraatz, Germany
Apples: made from wild apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 8%
Package type: 750ml clear glass wine bottle with screw cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass

Appearance: pours a deep clear amber with no head. No carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the scent is strong with notes of caramel,  baked apples, freshly pressed apples, apple flesh and apple skin.

Taste: it begins rather dry with low sweetness and practically no acidity. On the mid-palate, strong bitterness of seeds and lightly burnt caramel. Further down, notes of bitter chocolate but also fresh apple flesh. Finishes dry with low alcohol, lingering notes of caramel and moderate astringency.

Overall: Wilde Kerle is a great example that cider or apple wine is wine indeed and that weather conditions have a huge impact on cider that ends up in a bottle. Between the 2016 vintage and the 2018 vintage, I can see a huge difference in terms of flavours but not in terms of quality.  It is still very carefully made wine of the highest quality. Taste-wise, both have a different set of flavours, the 2016 vintage was more like white wine, while the 2018 vintage resembles cider in many ways, especially due to the moreish caramel flavour and moderate to high astringency. The 2018 vintage is quite unusual as at the same time it both warms up and tastes refreshing (due to refreshing fresh apple flesh and apple skin flavours). Personally, I enjoyed every sip. And, I can’t really say which vintage is better cause they are just so different. However, as I shared a bottle of it with a friend, and, she wasn’t fond of it, I guess you need to like the bitterness (although it wasn’t just pure bitterness as it came with notes of apple seeds and bitter chocolate).  I will definitely get more of this when I’m back to Frankfurt. 5.5/6

Availability: from their online shop. In Frankfurt from and Apfelweinhandlung. In Berlin from Schaufenster Uckermark located in Markthalle Neun.

Price: Florian passed me a bottle when I visited him in the Uckermark.

Visit recap to the William’s Ale & Cider House, the Cider House and Hawkes Cidery in London (26-28.02.2020)

Did you miss my blog posts? I hope so. Cause I’m about to give you a recap of my recent visit to a few cider places in London incl. the Williams Ale & Cider House, The Cider House and Hawkes Cider and Taproom.
Coronavirus outbreak is now on everyone’s lips but when I came to London two weeks ago, I didn’ see a single person wearing a mask and the tube was as crowded as always. When I reached London on Wednesday evening, all I could think of was to have a pint of real cider. What more can I say, I’m a cider addict.
The Williams Ale & Cider House
For that purpose, when in London I would normally head to The Williams Ale & Cider Pub in Spitalfields. I have been going there for at least 4 years now, every time I had to come to London for a business trip. I loved their fish n’ chips and an amazing for London selection of ciders from Perry’s, Gwatkin or other UK cider makers. As I already said earlier, that day I was really looking forward to getting a taste of a decent UK cider.  Especially, when I heard that the Williams Ale and Cider Pub was awarded CAMRA Official Cider Pub of the Year 2019 for East London and City.  The bar was set high.
Imagine my surprise when instead of proper UK cider I saw 4 offerings from Lilley’s and two from Westons’ on tap. For those of you who are not familiar with Lilley’s, Lilley’s is a British cider producer, making cider from apple concentrate. Definitely not real cider! And, Westons is a family-owned cider maker that makes cider at a commercial scale. Not bad but something I can buy almost everywhere. I left the pub frustrated and angry with a feeling of huge disappointment as if I were cheated. So these are CAMRA’s standards that a Cider Pub of the Year can sell a cider made from concentrate? Do you think it would ever happen in a beer place? No, never! Looks that CAMRA’s recommendations reg. cider are misleading and can go straight to the bin.
This situation led to a lot of thinking about the current position of cider in the UK. I’m honestly confused, as, on one hand, I can see a strong cider movement and will to promote and educate about cider. Just look at the #rethincider and magazines that are made available to a broader audience such as “Full Juice Magazine“. But I’m afraid and sorry to say that the impact is only “rural” and doesn’t affect big cities such as London to that extent. I left The Williams Ale and Cider House hugely disappointed and will not be coming again. The fish and chips were no longer as good as I remembered it.
The Cider House
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On the next day, my conference finished at 2pm so I headed straight to the Borough Market, the home of The Cider House, which is open only until 5pm, and Fridays until 6pm. In a nutshell, the Cider House is a stand selling mainly the New Forest Cider. I visited the Cider House briefly also last year and quickly fell in love with both cider and the location. img_4863This year, they must have moved to a new location within the Borough Market, refurbished their stand so now they also offer some sitting area too. Also, what’s new in contrast to the last time is that they seem to offer also cider on tap from other cider makers such as Ross-on-Wye, Capercaillie, Hawkes, Celtic Marches, Kentish Pip but also Thistly Cross.
Apart from New Forest Cider, a decent traditional English cider, many bottled ciders from various UK regions but also a few offerings from continental Europe were on offer. Due to my cider craving, it was a huge pleasure to drink the New Forest Kingston Black. My partner wasn’t that fond of traditional cider and went for their mulled cider.
Hawkes Cidery and Taproom

img_4937My cider urge wasn’t gone until then but I quickly realised that I have never visited Hawkes Cidery, London’s first cidery so far and their taproom in Bermondsey. Hence, I quickly reached out to Radim, assistant cider maker at Hawkes Cider, whom I met last year at Cider World in Frankfurt and arranged for a cidery tour for Saturday at 4pm. Radim couldn’t be there in person as the Hawkes Team was busy with the Craft Beer and Cider Festival BrewLDN taking place in Shoreditch (apparently becoming a very trendy area).img_4936
The surrounding area of Hawkes Cidery looks rather like suburbs, a housing area with no tourists in sight. Long story short, you’d never expect a cider place in such an area. Hawkes Cidery is located under two arches of the railroad tracks, which gives it a quite industrial feeling. From the outside, you don’t expect what you get inside. The area around Hawkes Cidery looked rather abandoned as I said earlier, so I didn’t expect crowds that I found at Hawkes Cidery! It was 3.45 pm and it was quite a challenge to reach the bar area. But we made it and found our tour guide, Angus. Angus gave us a tour to the cidery and let us taste 5 of ciders from the Hawkes lineup.
img_4943But let me give you a snapshot of the history of Hawkes Cider first. As the name indicates it all started with a hawker, a person who moved from one place to another to sell products. It was Simon Wright who at first made his own ginger beer and moved from one pub to another to sell his ginger beer. He eventually moved to cider. In 2018, Hawkes Cider was acquired by BrewDog, an independent Scottish craft brewer, which opened many doors to London-based cider maker. Since then guys from Hawkes have had the wind at their back and been attending international cider fairs and craft beer festivals. just like CiderWorld or BrewLDN.
img_4929At the beginning of Hawkes Cider, their ciders were made with apples donated by people living in London. Now their ciders are made mostly with apples that are not good enough for supermarkets to stock them. As for apple varieties, they usually work with eaters and cookers such as Bramleys, Gala, Braeburn and Pink Lady. All ciders are made under one of the two arches of the cidery. In the production area, one will find an apple mill along with an apple press, tanks and a few wooden barrels. Everything is done at the spot. Currently, Hawkes has 6 cider makers who experiment with various apple varieties, fruits and ageing in different oak barrels. Also, they frequently collaborate with other cider producers. You may remember their cider made in collaboration with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry. As noticed on the label on one of the fermenting tanks, a new exciting collab will be rolling out sooner or later. Not sure if I can reveal who the collab is with so I’ll just tease you that it sounds very promising!
img_4952As mentioned earlier, I got to try 5 different ciders from the Hawkes Cider lineup. They all tasted different, so everyone will find something to their taste. Starting with a cider that was made with eaters and resembled a little bit more sweet version and less sparkling version of prosecco, going through Kentucky bourbon barrel-aged cider, fruit cider and finishing with a tannic cider made from cider apple varieties. My favourite one was the Kentucky bourbon barrel-aged cider that actually tasted like a rum-barrel aged cider with lovely notes of tropical fruits and vanilla and coconut followed by Big Wow, a tannic cider. But other people who took the tour with us preferred lighter offerings from Hawkes. img_4945Some may criticise Hawkes for not doing cider the traditional way but crowds that I saw that Saturday speak for themselves. Many consumers seem to be looking for a natural, light, session or even alcohol-free beverages and guess what, at Hawkes all of them are available. Even those for hardcore, traditional cider drinkers like me will be pleased. I guess the acquisition by a BrewDog did them well after all.
On the way back to my hotel, I passed a pub called The Miller that also seem to have real cider on offer. Unfortunately, the place was closed until next Tuesday so I couldn’t pay them a visit. But judging by their website and their cider line up incl. Oliver’s, it could be a pub to visit next time I’m in London. Has anyone ever been to this pub? Is it any good?

Axminster Craft Cider Dabinett & Sweet Coppin

To Nick of Axminster Craft Cider, it all started as a hobby. In the village he lived in, there was a very old cider apple tree that Nick used for his cider. In the same village, he found an apple orchard with cider apple trees planted in the 1970s. After a while, Nick moved to a farm with a cider house and started making cider commercially. This year, he made 5000 litres. This is my first time trying anything from Axminster Craft Cider.Company: Axminster Craft Cider 
Place of Origin: Axminster, Devon, UK
Apples: a blend of Dabinett and Sweet Coppin
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 500 ml clear glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear deep amber with a dark orange hue and a small head that slowly reduces to a ring. Low to medium carbonation. Body is low to medium too.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong with notes of caramel, baked apples, apple skin but also tart apples, bittersweet apples with a hint of wood and resin.

Taste: my first impression is lightly sweet with low acidity of lemon. Smokiness, baked apples, overripe apples, low bitterness, caramel, sweetener. Finishes dry and a bit watery and a trace of lingering caramel-like bitterness, medium astringency and some sweetener-like sweetness to it and a note of dark chocolate.

Overall: the aroma is absolutely brilliant! It combines the best and most delicious features of an English cider and French cidre. The nose is clean without off-notes but yet you can tell that it is made with proper cider apples. It took me literally 5 minutes before I moved on to take the first sip. On the palate, you get practically the same fabulous notes as on the nose. Also, the Axminster Craft Cider has an incredibly long taste that seems to never end. All these flavours of caramel, overripe apples and baked apples with a touch of bitterness literally dance in your mouth. It’s like a seductive tango of your taste buds. Drink this cider after a hard day at work to celebrate the evening. Pure heaven! I definitely would drink more. Scrattings, can you please start listing Axminster Cider? 5.5/6  

Availability: directly from Axminster Cider Co or online from Slurp.

Price: Nick provided me with a sample. 

Mostbarone Apfel Cider

The focus of Mostbarone of Lower Austria is not entirely on pears. Sometimes they make cider as well. Today I give you the Mostbarone Baron Apfel Cider.

Company: Distelberger Genuss-Bauernhof
Place of Origin:
 Öhling, Lower Austria, Austria
Ingredients:
Apple cider, apple juice
Sweetness as per label: 
unknown
ABV:
3.3%
Package type:
 330 ml clear glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: 
white wine glass, chalice glass or flute

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw yellow with a white head that quickly reduces to a ring. Medium and artificial carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong with notes of fresh, tart and green apples. Notes of apple skins of cooking apples. Freshly pressed apple juice.

Taste: my first impression is moderately sweet with low acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, notes of fresh apple juice, watery note, green apples, apple flesh. Finishes with an aromatic note of fresh apples. 

Overall: The Baron Apfel cider was clearly made with dessert apples as it is very light, even a bit watery with no sign of the tannin on the palate. It has a longlasting and very aromatic and apply taste. This is a splendid offering for a hot summer day or for those who prefer gentle and fruity ciders. A pleasant and naturally tasting alternative to industrial ciders of this world. But you can’t drink much of it. So drink it properly chilled. I had difficulties finishing the small 33cl bottle. Not my cup of tea but the majority of regular cider drinkers will surely love it. 4.5/6

Availability: directly through Mostbarone.

Price: It was a sample provided by Toni from Mostbarone.

Aspall Harry Sparrow

Harry Sparrow was launched in 2012 by Aspall, a British cider maker, who last year made the headlines after being snapped up by the US beer giant Molson Coors. This cyder is named after Aspall’s cider maker who had worked for the Aspall family for 50 years. I wonder what would he have to say about the acquisition. Anyway, the Harry Sparrow is advertised as a more sessionable cyder than other ciders from Aspals lineup. Company: Aspall 
Place of Origin: Debenham, Suffolk, UK
Apples: made from bittersweet apple varieties such as Kingston Black & Medaille d’Or
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 4.6%
Package type: 500ml brown glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, flute or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with gentle orange hues. Lightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is not very strong, but rich with notes of caramel, vanilla, red apple, red apple skin and red berries. Smells quite nice.

Taste: the first sip is moderately sweet, rather medium than medium dry, with low acidity. Subsequently, I pick up a smoky note, a bit watery note with flavours of red apple, caramel, and red berries. It finishes dry with a taste of red berries, crispy red apples, a low astringent taste, a light buttery note and a hint of burnt caramel.

Overall: the Harry Sparrow is claimed to be made from bittersweet cider apples, which are known for their high tannin content giving an astringent and/or bitter taste. But I can get only a very lightly astringent taste and no bitterness. Also, a quite low ABV of 4.6% makes this cyder look very suspicious. My guess is that this cyder was diluted with water. Another option is that eating/cooking apple varieties were also used in the blend. Either way, The Harry Sparrow is a light and drinkable cyder from Aspall. It tastes sweeter than advertised so I would classify it as a medium cider, not medium dry. A tiny bit too sweet to my liking, but I think it can be enjoyable. In addition, a flavour of red berries makes the Harry Sparrow quite refreshing. I would recommend this cider if you’re at the beginning of your cider journey or you’re looking for a light and sweet tasting cider. 3.5/6 

Availability: in the UK from their online shop, Morrisons, Tesco, Beers of Europe. In Germany from Cider and More. In terms of shops locally in Berlin from Hopfen und Malz. In the Czech Republic from Dobry Cider and Delikatesy online,

Price: purchased from Hopfen und Malz at 4.5 EUR n Berlin.

Cider Tasting – Gutshof Kraatz in Frankfurt

img_4397Have I already told you that Frankfurt is a fantastic city, especially if you’re into Apfelwein? Apfelwein can be purchased pretty much everywhere here. One of the great apple wine spots in Frankfurt is the Apfelweinhandlung run by Jens Becker, where recently a tasting of apple wines made by Florian Profiltich of Gutshof Kraatz from the Uckermark took place. Actually, it’s not so long ago when I visited Florian in the Uckermark and had a guided tour of the facilities located 200km north of Berlin. For detailed visit recap, click here.

Actually, Florian together with his wife Edda just started their vacation. Their plan was to visit Metz, Luxembourg and Pfalz. But they also decided to squeeze in a short stop in Frankfurt and showcase Florian’s apple wines at Apfelweinhandlung before really going on vacation. Florian brought a couple of bottles that I have already tried and even reviewed. But, he also brought with him wines that were new to me so I was very excited to taste them.

Altländer Pfannkuchenapfel Schaumwein 2017 (ABV: 8% )

img_4386It’s not my first acquaintance with this apple wine as I tried it at Florian’s Gutshof Kraatz and also reviewed it recently (click here for the full review) so I was happy to be able to try this beautiful sparkling apple wine again.  Florian mentioned that this apple variety needs a marine/coastal climate and is rare to find in other regions of Germany. It’s a typical cooking apple used for baking. In addition, it’s a great apple to press and quite similar to Bohnapfel but with less astringency. The 2017 vintage was made from apples grown in two locations and bottled in 2018. Appearance: clear, golden, still. The body is medium. Aroma: caramel, lemon, yellow apples, a distant hint of Bretts. Taste: dry, moderate lemon-like acidity, yellow apples, smokiness, low bitterness, low astringency. Overall: Just like the last time and time before last time, drinking the Pfannkuchenapfel Schaumwein was a pure pleasure. Smooth, quite light, nicely balanced with a long-lasting taste. Interestingly, the wild notes were less strong both on the nose as on the palate. Other participants were fond of this drop too! 5.5/6

img_4388

Schwarze Katze 2018 (8.5%)

Schwarze Katze is made mainly with Bohnapfel. The juice was pressed 5 days after crushing, so the fermentation kicked in spontaneously and gave better juice yields. After the primary fermentation, Schwarze Katze underwent secondary fermentation in the bottle and was aged on lees. Appearance: cloudy, golden, medium carbonation. The body is medium. Aroma: yellow apples, not strong. Taste: dry, moderate to high lemon-like acidity, moderate astringency, low astringency, off-notes, short taste. Overall: Again, this was the 3rd time I was tasting this drop (here is full review). And, it still didn’t convince me. The off-notes are too strong. Also, the taste was rather short. Despite nice apple-y flavours on the palate, I’m not going to be friends with this one. 3/6

Bohnapfel 2018 aus dem Holzfass (8%)

img_4391This is a single-varietal apple wine made with Bohnapfel that was aged in French oak barrels that were previously used for red wine. Florian recommended decanting the Bohnapfel 2018. Appearance: clear, golden, still. The body is medium. Aroma: caramel, moderately strong, vanilla. Taste: dry, moderate to high lemon-like acidity, yellow apples,  lightly watery, low astringency, lemon, caramel, vanilla. Long taste. Overall: I tried this wine for the first time. It lacked the body although it was rich in terms of flavours. Others liked it and thought it was interesting but could imagine drinking only a glass of it, not more. I think it’s a good description as it didn’t strike me as well. 3.5/6

Goldrenetten 2018 (9.5%)

img_4394-2Goldrenette is a blend of 5 different renettes including Kasseler Renette, Blenheim Renette, Goldparmäne, Graue Renette and Boskoop. Appearance: clear, golden, still. The body is medium. Aroma: caramel, butter caramel, strong. Taste: lightly sweet, low acidity, low but lingering burnt caramel-like bitterness, medium astringency, caramel, butter caramel, vanilla. Long taste. Overall: Again, I tried this wine for the first time. There was lots going on both the nose and the palate. And, it was indeed a pleasure to drink this drop. I love the rich apple wines that make you discover more notes with every sip. Also, I personally loved the flavours of butter caramel. Definitely, something that I would like to try again. 5/6

Adamsparmäne 2018 (9.5%)

img_4396Adamsparmäne is actually an English apple variety also known as Norfolk Pippin. It gives quite small apples according to Florian. Appearance: almost clear, golden, still. The body is medium. Aroma: quince, strong, aromatic, apple skin, vanilla. Taste: lightly sweet, low acidity, moderate caramel-like bitterness that lingers on, caramel, butter caramel, quince, low astringency, alcohol. Long taste. Overall: I didn’t like the 2016 vintage at all (for full review click here) as I thought it tasted way too bitter. Hence, I was very curious to taste the 2018 vintage. The 2018 vintage is admittedly also quite bitter but the bitterness is not striking, not unpleasant. It’s just not a plain bitterness but a nicely incorporated bitterness contributing to the overall taste instead of killing it. Its taste is rich, with lovely notes that go on and on. I enjoyed it this year. 4.5/5

Wilde Kerle 2017

img_4398Florian makes this apple wine from wild apple varieties that once. Appearance: clear, pale golden, still. The body is medium. Aroma: caramel, quince, rather weak – but the tasting temperature was here a bit too low. Taste: dry, moderate to high acidity, yellow apples, moderate caramel-like bitterness, quince, high astringency. Long taste. Overall: It’s different to the 2016 vintage that I absolutely adored (to read the full review click here). The taste is still very long and a lot is going on on the palate here. Interestingly, the level of acidity was higher than I remember and made this apple wine taste very refreshing. Still, the acidity was a bit too strong even for me. It didn’t compliment this offering. But from what I heard also others had similar thoughts to mine. 4.5/6

Wilde Kerle 2018

img_4399It’s the 2018 vintage of the same blend. Appearance: clear, golden, still. The body is img_4404medium. Aroma: vanilla, caramel, lightly citrusy. Taste: slightly sweet, low acidity, caramel, apple seeds and apple seeds- bitterness, apple skin,  moderate astringency. Long taste. Overall: It’s fascinating to compare two very different vintages that were made from the same apples but in a different year. The 2017 vintage had a much higher acidity, while the 2018 vintage was rather low in acid. Also, while the 2017 vintage is more fruity with notes of quince, the 2018 vintage has more body and alcohol with more caramel-like notes. Even the colour was different. It shows how different weather conditions were in this region in both years (see the pic above). 5/6

Sauerkirschen 2018 (16%)

img_4400This is not an apple wine  as you can judhe by the colour but a wine made with sour and sweet cherries. Florian made only 300 bottles of this drop. It was the first time he managed to get the fruit as previously the birds would eat almost the whole crop. But somehow in 2018, starlings spared the cherries so Florian could also experiment with cherries. Appearance: dark magenta, still. The body is medium. Aroma: cloves, cinnamon, blackberries, like mulled wine, very strong. Taste: moderately sweet, low acidity of cherries, cinnamon, cloves, low bitterness, moderate astringency. Long taste. Overall: I double-checked with Florian if he added any spices to this wine. So no spices added. I was amazed as the notes of cinnamon and cloves together made this drop taste like a not so overly sweet mulled wine with extremely strong notes of Christmas spices. All participants loved this offering including me. 5.5/6

Overall, I knew Florian before and tried many apple wines or fruit wines made by him. So it wasn’t a surprise to me that most of the wines tastes during this evening were really brilliant. But this tasting gave me a rare opportunity of comparing different vintages of the same wines from the range of Gutshof Kraatz. It was striking that most of the 2018 vintages had a rather unusually low level of acidity but higher alcohol level. This is in line with weather conditions that were in 2018 that caused lower acid levels in apples. Also, it was interesting to see how the taste of Altländer Pfannkuchenapfel Schaumwein 2017 evolved. I tried this wine three times within 3 months and now there were almost no funky notes on the palate.  It just shows that there are truly many factors influencing the taste of cider and that apple wine is a wine not without a reason. With age, it changes. I wish there would be another tasting in another 3 months so I can compare my notes. From left to right: Edda Müller, Natalia Wszelaki, Florian Profitlich, Christine Isensee-Kiesau, Jens Becker, Michael Stöckl