CiderWorld2019: visit recap

Remembering my great impressions of CiderWorld 2018 (for my visit recap of CiderWorld2018 click here), I could hardly wait for CiderWorld2019 in Frankfurt to begin! Especially, that also this year, I was honoured to have been selected as part of a prestigious panel of jurors for CiderWorldAward in Frankfurt. 2a5e8933-2812-4361-8fae-a45f481c2df4As a refresher, CiderWorld is an international cider fair in Frankfurt, Germany launched in 2008 as Apfelwein International and organised by Michael Stöckl, Apfelwein sommelier. And, an event that can’t be missed!

CiderWorld2019 started very well for me as once I checked in at the hotel, Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, and entered the hotel room I saw a bottle of the Ramborn Original and a welcome note from the organisers of CiderWorld waiting for me. It’s just a small thing but it’s something that immediately puts a smile on your face and makes you feel welcome.

CiderWeek

Since I’m based in Berlin, not in Frankfurt, I was not able to participate in the CiderWeek that similarly as last year was held in Frankfurt before the actual CiderWorld began. But still, I would like to briefly tell you about it. Just like last year, there were multiple events happening in different venues in Frankfurt promoting cider culture, and most importantly, educating! Events such as AfterWork CiderParty in Manhattan Bar, where cocktails are served based on Apfelwein; Sidra y Tapas, where participants get to try sidra from Asturias and sagardoa from the Basque Country; Irish Cider Tasting, where various ciders from different Irish counties are poured or Frank Winklers große Probe with local Frankfurt dishes paired with exquisite Apfelwein made by producers from Hesse are great opportunities to introduce many to cider and showcase different cider styles around the world and make people understand that cider is meant for pairing with food. As I am looking up all the events that took place during the cider week, I read that most events were sold out! Great to hear that cider is so popular in Frankfurt!

Friday. Judging Day.

img_2127When I came last year to Daheim im Lorsbacher Tal, where the jury was supposed to sample ciders submitted to the CiderAwards, I was a little bit insecure and a little unconfident as I simply didn’t know anyone of the judges in person. It was my first judging panel and I didn’t know if I perform well. This year was different. As I entered the restaurant I saw many friendly and familiar faces. I’m not only referring to Michael Stöckl, who gave me a very warm welcome but also Frank Winkler, Susanna Forbes, Eduardo Vázquez Coto, Darlene Hayes, Gabe Cook and many, many more. I’m not going to bore you with details of the judging itself as it essentially had the same format as last year. However, we tried a bit fewer samples than last time. My judging panel was supposed to try 22 ciders, which ended up in 24 ciders as one of the judging panels needed more time for sample evaluation as mine.

My observations from the judging are that despite deep knowledge about cider and cider making, not everyone can be a good judge.  If you want to be a judge, you have to be fair and evaluate products by their quality and regionality using a scoring system. Judging is not a matter of personal preferences. One doesn’t have to be a fan of Asturian sidra, Basque country sagardoa or English “West Country” cider but has to evaluate this type of product according to the scoring system. I’m bringing this up as one of the judges on my panel apparently didn’t appreciate Spanish style cider and initially gave a lower score to one of the sampled ciders. Only after explaining that this style typically has a higher level of volatile acid and consulting with an Asturian colleague, finally, the score was changed. I don’t think that any festival has the perfect jury so I’m not blaming anyone but situations like these simply make me angry.

img_2137Right after the jury tasting, Susanna, Darlene and Gabe decided to pay Apfelweinkontor a visit so I thought I’ll join them. Apfelweinkontor is an Apfelwein store located in the Sachsenhausen area of Frankfurt. Josef was there to welcome us and give us another round of Apfelweintasting. We tried a couple of German Apfelwein and Apfelschaumweins. The Weihman & Groh Boskoop was my favourite of this round.

CiderWorld Preview & Awards

img_2152To be honest, I have not the faintest idea of how the organisers managed to calculate all the points and print the certificates for getting either Gold, Silver or Honor in categories, still, sparkling, flavoured & mixed and ice cider. All this basically overnight. It requires a lot of work and organisational skills so bravo for that!

Although the scoring system hasn’t changed since last year, most ciders awarded this time truly deserved the CiderWorldAward. I think that the quality of ciders was simply overall much higher than in the previous year as this year I had significantly fewer reasons to complain. To see the full list of the winners click here. I’ll dedicate a section about my favourite ciders in the later part of this post.

Cider Gourmet

img_2173Luxembourg was this year’s guest of honour. And, on Saturday Ramborn as the main Luxembourgish cider maker hosted an incredible cider dinner at a two-star Restaurant Lafleur located in Gesellschaftspalmengarten. Two famous two-Michelin-starred chefs Léa Linster (who happens to come from Luxembourg) and Andreas Krolik were asked by Ramborn to prepare a 7-course menu and pair it with a variety of ciders. And, as the cherry on the cake, Gabe Cook aka the Ciderlogist was invited to introduce cider that was paired with each dish. Doesn’t it already sound like a great event? There were approximately 90 tickets for this exquisite evening priced at 198 Euro and they sold out in just five days of being available. Luckily for me, Ramborn kindly invited me to Cider Gourmet. Thank you for having me!

img_2180To summarise it in two words, it was an epic dinner. Each dish was absolutely fabulous and pairing them with cider elevated the dining experience to new heights. Each chef had its own style but both were simply excellent. Most ciders were fantastically paired and complemented these exquisite dishes. There were a few cider pairings that were sensational, incredible, fantastic, just blown me away. I was especially fond of the Speierling from Jens Becker paired with fried artichoke and gourmet mushroom ravioli with artichoke veloute, peas, roasted quinoa and hazelnut-lemon foam. Ice Cider from Brännland paired great with duck foie gras marinated in ice cider with mango jelly and toasted brioche. img_2166And, the Ramborn Bourbon Barrel Aged still cider was absolutely fantastic in combination with saddle and cheeks of Vogelsberger free-range beef with red wine butter, truffle jus, oven-cooked celery, roasted leek and turnips with Ramborn Cider. Unfortunately, two ciders that were selected for this evening didn’t pair well in my opinion. I think that the Old Man and the Bee from Little Pomona was much better without food than with food. Also, Edu by Angry Orchard tasted better on its own than paired with fried artichoke and gourmet mushroom ravioli.

The idea of pairing cider with food is not new. But if you invite two two-Michelin-starred chefs such as Léa Linster and Andreas Krolik to create dishes with ciders and to pair dishes with ciders, it is much more than just fine cuisine. Let me explain to you briefly why.

img_2178I assume that most guests booked a ticket for cider dinner because of the duo of two-Michelin-starred chefs Léa Linster and Andreas Krolik. But what the guest got in return was not only sensational food but also an introduction course to cider. Based on my observations, most guests had rather limited knowledge of cider before the dinner so each cider style that was served was new to most. I heard oohs and aahs on ice cider from Brännland but I noticed that some guests sitting at my table refused to drink the Old Man and the Bee from Little Pomona, the English “West Country” cider, which may not be suitable for everyone. But as Gabe Cook pointed out when I brought this up, all the guests learned that cider may have many faces and may come in different flavours. It is difficult to disagree with that.

img_2177Another advantage of such an event is getting awareness of chefs that food can also be paired with cider and can amplify the pleasure associated with eating. This is of extreme importance as chefs are also influencers and can hugely impact restaurant guests and so introduce them to quality cider, which hopefully will lead to a cider chain reaction. Not only guests could be converted to cider but also sommeliers, who are in charge of food pairings. Thank you, Ramborn for letting me participate in this sensational cider dinner and promoting cider in such an outstanding way!

From left to right: Carlo and Adie from Ramborn, Edu (Cider Guerilla Imports), Lea Linster, Gabe Cook (The Ciderologist), Susanna Forbes (Drink Britain), Caitilin Braam (Angry Orchard), Natalia Wszelaki (Cider Explorer) and Andreas Krolik

Sunday. Frankfurt Cider Fair. 

img_2215Michael Stöckl must have some kind of magic powers as the day when CiderWorld actually begins for visitors, is always warm, sunny and simply beautiful. This time, ninety cider makers from twenty countries gathered and poured cider/Apfelwein/sidra/sagardoa/sidro or siider to thousands of visitors. Similarly to last year, visitors came to Gesellschaftspalmengarten to sample cider from around the world. At some point, there were so many visitors that it was a challenge to move from one cider booth to another. From what I heard, some came to CiderWorld, not because of cider but because they heard of CiderWorld and wanted to check this event out. And, in the end, they were surprised that cider can taste so good! When you hear opinions like these you know that events like these are important and meaningful!

Best CiderWorld’s 2019 Cider Discoveries

img_2151As I mentioned earlier, the quality of ciders this year was exceptionally high. I’ve sampled so many great cidres that I had difficulties shortlisting them. Obviously, also this time I failed to try everything. So I might have missed a few cider discoveries for which I apologise. You might actually say that ciders below picked up Cider Explorer’s Gold.

  • Hawkes brought three cidres from London. But especially their All Made Equal (Dry), a blend of tannic cider with acidic dessert apples and the fruit of a collab with Tom Oliver won my heart.
  • Gutshof Kraatz from Uckermark is a great cider producer in general. But their 2018 vintage is spectacular. Everything I tried from them was outstanding. Although my absolute favourite was the Boskoop that was bottle conditioned.
  • Jaanihanso – a cider maker from Estonia. I sampled every product made by them and thought they all were outstanding!
  • Ramborn Bourbon Barrel Still Cider – a cider made with 82 apple varieties aged in Bourbon Casks. I adored the smokiness and delicate acidity. Excellent drop.
  • Jens Becker – Jens Becker is a Frankfurt Apfelwein producer and his Speierling, which is an Apfelwein made with sorb, left me speechless with its beauty.

Closing remarks

CiderWorld in Frankfurt is one of those events that you look forward to every year and once it belongs to the past, you can’t believe it’s over. Especially, if you are a cider lover or a fan of quality cider. Not only I tried many new ciders from cider makers sometimes  I haven’t even heard of but I also met with many old friends and made new friends. In addition, it was great to finally meet in person with cider makers, whom I only exchanged emails with for the last year. CiderWorld is a true cider celebration of cider as a beverage and of the cider community, which turns out to be fantastic and very supporting people. Already planning my trip for CiderWold2020! Cheers!

 

CiderWorld 2018: visit recap

img_9619CiderWorld 2018 began for me already in January 2018 when Michael Stöckl, Apfelwein sommelier and organiser of CiderWorld, offered me the opportunity to join the judging panel of the CiderWorld Awards 2018, an international cider fair in Frankfurt, Germany launched in 2008 as Apfelwein International. The thought of meeting cider makers in person, trying multiple ciders from all over the globe and spending a great time with so many cider lovers in one place was already fantastic, but being in the judging panel among such cider experts as Claude Jolicoeur from Canada and Peter Mitchell from the UK was never in my wildest dreams. Ever since I have been waiting with excitement for CiderWorld to begin!

CiderWeek

Finally, April arrived, and with it CiderWeek and CiderWorld. In order to extend the celebration of cider before the announcement of CiderWorld Awards, various events were organised in many locations such as restaurants, bars and speciality shops all over Frankfurt. Since I’m based in Berlin I couldn’t participate in all events, but I’ll name a few to give you a better picture. Since Ireland was the Guest of Honour this year, there was an Irish Cider Night with Irish music and Irish cider. Also, Jörg Stier, an Apfelwein maker from Hesse served his various Apfelweins in combination with a 5-course set menu served by Gerbermühle. In addition, Michael Stöckl along with Naïv organised an interesting event ‘Craft Cider meets Craft Beer’, which offered an opportunity for food pairing and tasting cider and beer. Another event covered tasting of 5 sparkling ciders from Bretagne and Hesse selected by Mark Gleonec of Breton Cellar and Michael Rühl of Apfelweinkontor, respectively. Sidra y Tapas featured sidra from Asturia, sagardoa from Basque Country along with tapas and Spanish music. As you can see, CiderWeek gave the opportunity of exploring many cider styles paired with food. I must admit that I regret I have missed it. Next year I have to plan some more time in Frankfurt.

Friday. Judging Day.

img_9494Friday the 13th was a gloomy and rainy day in Frankfurt, perfect for indoor activities in  Lorsbacher Thal such as blind tasting of 160 international ciders submitted for the CiderAward in categories still sparkling, flavoured, blended with other fruits or fruit wine. Due to this astonishing number of submitted ciders and fruit wines, there were approx. 30 judges divided into 6 groups featuring 5 experts from the area of cider and wine, including myself, sampling between 25-30 ciders. Michael Stöckl began the blind tasting with a short introduction, explained how ciders have to be assessed and points assigned. Each cider could get a maximum number of 120 points split for components such as colour, clarity/aroma, palate incl. flavour, mouthfeel, length and regional taste profile. And, of course, an overall impression. A score of 109 – 120 equated to Gold, 97 – 108 points equated Silver and for ciders that scored between 80 – 96 points there was an Honour Award. As mentioned above, the judges evaluated the regional taste profile as well, so before the actual blind tasting started experts in the area of Spanish cider (Eduardo Vázquez Coto of Guerilla Imports), French cidre (Mark Gleonec of Breton Cellar), English cider (Peter Mitchell of Cider & Perry Academy) and German Apfelwein (Michael Stöckl) gave a brief introduction to typical features for each cider style.

img_9497And so it began, my judging group featuring Peter Mitchell, Frank Winkler (owner of Lorsbacher Thal), Michael Koch (responsible for wine purchase for Selgros Cash & Carry) and Evert Kornmayer (publisher at Kornmayer Verlag) evaluated 26 blinded samples from Japan, Latvia, Ireland and the U.S. It took us around 4 hours to try and assign points to each cider. I don’t think I have ever tried that much cider in such a short time so I was really glad to make a new experience and still stay sober. As for sampled ciders and assigned points, as usual, some ciders tasted pleasant and stood out from the crowd, some tasted average or even in rare cases terrible. Interestingly, points assigned by the judges in my group didn’t deviate too much from each other so it was good to see that we had a similar palate and were on the same page with regard to ciders that picked up awards. I don’t have to tell you that I was very eager to try the remaining submitted ciders! But it had to wait until the next day.img_9499CiderWorld Preview & Awards

img_9572Saturday began with lots of sunshine and the lovely perspective of trying even more cider. So I headed to the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten, where the Preview and the announcement of the CiderAwards were supposed to take place. The venue was absolutely brilliant with a garden view creating a nice connection between the naturally produced products and nature itself. This part of CiderWorld was available only for retailers, sommeliers, restaurateurs and trade press. So once I got myself a tasting glass with a beautiful CiderWorld logo on it I started my cider exploration. I didn’t get to try many ciders before the CiderAwards were officially announced as I was chatting to cider folk that I was in touch with earlier but never actually met in person or those who I admire a lot such as Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry.

But then, the Cider Awards including Gold, Silver and Honour Awards in all categories were announced. On top of that, there were awards for ciders that scored the most points in each category. After the announcement was made and almost every participating cider maker went to the stage I had a feeling that there was an ‘everyone is a winner’ situation, which I personally think is not really rewarding if there are 21 Gold medals in 5 categories, meaning approx. 4 Golds per category. It feels like a consolation prize for everyone. I’ve decided to bring this up after sampling a bunch of awarded ciders afterwards that were only average or even weak. I’m sorry to say that but in my judgement, the number of the CiderWorld Awards devalues the meaning of the CiderAward.

What do you usually expect from a Gold winner? Cause I expect a nicely balanced product with a remarkable aroma and palate. Speaking for myself, one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze in each category would be a truthful award. A real and meaningful achievement for a cider maker and a clear message to the world ‘this is an outstanding product in its category’. I have to stress again that there were way too many awards in my opinion.

The full list of awarded products is available here.img_9505

CiderWorld Party

img_9517After the tasting of ciders taking part in the competition, the cider folk changed the venue to a more cosy one, ‘Kleiner Mann mit dem Blitz’ in Sachsenhausen, a vibrant neighbourhood of Frankfurt. There was time for more networking, getting together, eating local specialities and drinking traditional Hausschoppen from Frank Winkler’s Lorsbacher Thal. I’ve made many new friends and discussed cider, cider and cider. img_9520But, the highlight of the evening was the visit to the cellar of Frank’s restaurant Lorsbacher Thal just nearby. Frank took over the restaurant in 2014, but the building is much older than that. The cellar is over 200 years old and has a piece of history behind. Back then each restaurant in Hesse would produce its own Schoppen (traditional Hesse apple wine) and mature it in massive oak barrels kept in the cellar. Each barrel in Frank’s cellar could fit up to 60.000 L. Could. Unfortunately, the cellar was flooded in 1960s and when Frank took over the restaurant the barrels could no longer be used for the production of Schoppen. Anyway, they still look gorgeous and increase the heart rate of every cider lover. Apart from the barrels, I was amazed by Frank’s extensive cider stash. Frank’s impressive cider collection counts over 200 ciders mainly from various German cider makers, but also from other countries such as Spain, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Netherlands or the U.S. This place was so magical and mystical I didn’t really want to leave it. But I had to get ready for the next CiderWorld day.

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Each barrel could fit up to 60.000 l Schoppen
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Frank Winkler, owner of Lorsbacher Thal
Frank Winkler and his extensive cider collection of international ciders
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Schoppen quality control
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Leftovers from blind tastings

Sunday. Frankfurt Cider Fair. 

img_9588As you know, cider is best appreciated in nice surroundings, with great people and tasty food. And, it is exactly what was provided by the organizers. Anyone who has been to the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten in Frankfurt has to admit the building and the gardens are beautiful. 95 exhibitors coming from 17 countries brought their products and poured cider and fruit wines to glasses of visitors who decided to spend the Sunday celebrating various fermented beverages made from apples and other fruits. Invited food vendors offered meals such as local BBQ specialities, pretzels or an extensive selection of cheese that paired well with offered beverages.

But let’s go back to the beginning, the opening ceremony was initiated by the Irish dancing incl. step dancing as Ireland was the Guest of Honour of this year’s edition of CiderWorld and followed by the speech of Michael Stöckl who officially opened the fair. On the ground floor, one could find booths serving products from Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, the UK, Japan and Spain. On the top floor cider from Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, the Netherlands, the US, Latvia, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

Visitors sampling ciders from 17 countries
img_9600
Edda and Florian of Gutshof Kraatz from Uckermark with their elegant wines
img_9580
Sebastian and Tim from CiderKultur, a recently launched German craft cider webshop
img_9578
Olan of Dan Kelly’s and Davy of Tempted Cider, both in a great mood
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Rubert of Longueville Cider House proudly presenting one of my favourite ciders

Best CiderWorld’s 2018 Cider

CiderWorld Award was a competition for cider makers but CiderWorld was a challenge for me as I wanted to try every single cider. I failed. So instead of choosing the best cider, I will share with you my most exciting cider discoveries.

  • Domaine Lesuffleur – Benoit Lesuffleur brought three ciders from Normandie. All outstanding, balanced with a great aroma and palate, but my personal favourite was his Missùs 2016. A true rising star!
  • Prosequ from Austria entered the CiderWorldAward with their Quittensecco (sparkling wine from quince) and picked up Silver. Strong and lovely fruity aroma and a good taste.
  • BlakStoc from Austria with the Buddha’s Hand, made with kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon and Buddha’s hand citron with fresh pressed wild orchard apple juice. What an aroma and delicious taste! Shame, it’s only seasonal.
  • Obsthof Krieger from Germany with their single varietal Trierer Weinapfel. Refreshing acidity, great palate. I could have more of this one.
  • Gutshof Kraatz with their lovely sparkling wine made from Mostbirnen (perry pears)
  • Cold Hand Winery from Denmark with their nicely balanced ice cider
  • Paladeus from Italy with their Sidro Frizzante di Mela that sat 8 months on its lees. The nose is a bit too yeasty but on the palate a lovely, fruity offering for a hot summer day.
  • Criagies Cider from Ireland. I thought it was a quite pleasant everyday cider.
  • Tempted Cider with their Elderflower. Its beautiful aroma literally pours out of a glass.
  • Finnbarra with Rós, a nice and light rhubarb cider

In addition, I wish here to acknowledge ciders that I have sampled previously. All of them were present at CiderWorld 2018 and are cracking good!

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Benoit Lesuffluer’s Missùs 2016 won my heart this year

Closing remarks

I guess CiderWorld showed me the meaning of the phrase ‘time flies’. It was a spectacular and truly international event dedicated to cider, perry and other fruit products that continued for me for three days although it felt like an hour, tops. CiderWorld 2018 was special to me as a cider blogger and cider drinker. I made new friends and met old ones. I have encountered a very warm welcome from the organiser’s of CiderWorld 2018, Michael Stöckl and Christine Isensee-Kiesau. Also, I have finally met my idol, Tom Oliver who is not only a great cider maker but an absolutely fabulous and warm-hearted person.

Although I might not agree with the number of the winners of the CiderAwards, I’m glad that I could be a part of CiderWorld 2018 as a CiderWorld Award judge and guest. Seeing so many visitors on Sunday at CiderWorld lit a new cider fire in me. Now, it’s time to educate others that cider is the best drink in the world! See you next year in Frankfurt!