CiderWorld 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!
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.
Friday 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.
And 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.CiderWorld Preview & Awards
Saturday 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.
After 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. But, 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.
Sunday. Frankfurt Cider Fair.
As 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.
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!
- Abavas’s Hopped Apple
- Ramborn Farmhouse, Perry, Erbachhofer and the Original
- Longueville House Cider
- Gutshof Kraatz Wilde Kerle
- Bereziartua Sidra Natural
- Highbank Orchards Medieval Cider
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!