Gwynt y Ddraig Farmhouse Vintage Scrumpy

After the everyone’s favourite the Black Dragon (see the review here) the Farmhouse Vintage Scrumpy is another cider from this Welsh cider maker that I have the pleasure to sample. The Farmhouse Vintage Scrumpy has picked up a number of awards in the UK and Australia. 
Company:
Gwynt y Ddraig Cider and Perry Company
Place of Origin: Pontypridd, Wales, UK
Apples: cider apples grown by traditional methods in ageing orchards
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 5.3%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or flute

Appearance: pours a clear orange with no head. Low petillant-type carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is dominated by sulphur, with notes of red apples in the background and caramel. This is all I picked up.

Taste: it begins with a high amount of caramel-like sweetness, which classifies this cider in my opinion rather as sweet than medium. The acidity level is low and lemon-like. Similarly as on the nose, a hint of sulphur with notes of red apple and apple juice. The finish has a low to moderate astringent taste with a refreshing note of crisp apple.

Overall: a sulphur note is not exactly my favourite flavour. Especially, if the sulphur flavour dominates the aroma, thus simply acting as a turn-off to me. The palate is much better than the nose overpowered by sulphur as it comes with a pleasant apple forward taste. But still, I can’t call this flavour not superb. In addition, I found the level of sweetness way too high to my liking. But again, if you don’t mind the sulphur flavour and you have a sweet tooth you may find this cider refreshing. Personally, I wouldn’t buy it again. 3/6

Availability: from their online shop. in the UK from BeerRitz, Dylans Wine, N.D. John Wine Merchants, Mumbles Fine Wine, Blas Ar Fwyd , CWM Deri, The Old Railway Line.In Finland from Alko.fi.  In Berlin from Hopfen & Malz. Online in Germany from Cider and More. in the Netherlands from Het Ciderhuis, Speciaalbierenwinkel.nl, Biernavigatie.

Price: purchased locally in Berlin from Hopfen & Malz at 3.5 EUR.

Highlights and The Top 10 Ciders of 2017

As we wrap up another year, it’s time to look back at some of the most memorable ciders reviewed in 2017. It so happens that also my first year of blogging comes to a close. So I thought I’ll share with you my thoughts on 2017 from a perspective of a Berlin-based cider blogger.

First of all, I’ve met many inspiring people who taught me many things about cider, opened my eyes to the challenges and issues related to cider making and distribution and sales of the finished product in Europe. Thank you for sharing so many interesting stories and your experience with me!

My second observation is that real/craft cider is always made by passionate people, who not always are skilled and talented as Tom Oliver or Eric Bordelet, but they all share true love to cider and cider making. Some cider makers have a great potential for development but their cider still requires some improvement. Sometimes their cider just needs more time…

In addition, it was fascinating to see how the taste of cider might change with every batch. For example, Polish cider Japko (see the review here) I have tried in 2016 tasted much better than this year’s batch.

Last but not least, I’m proud that I have managed to bring together cider lovers from many European countries. Countries not always having a deep-rooted history of cider making. But as it turns out, cider brings people together! This is why the information about closing InCider Bar in Prague at the end of 2017 hit me really hard. InCider Bar was a unique place in Europe and will be sorely missed. But life goes on and cider drinkers can still meet at cider-themed events such as Slavnost Cideru in Prague, where you can talk to other cider lovers sharing their passion for cider just like you do. Btw, next year you can meet me on January 26th at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018.

But let’s get to the point. In 2017 I’ve reviewed around 200 different ciders mainly from Europe, but also from Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. Some of them were exceptional and I couldn’t get enough of them, some of them went down the sink drain. And trust me, it was a real challenge to select only 10 out of over 200 ciders I have sampled (incl. cider tastings, cider festivals and ciders tried in Canada). So after long discussions (with myself) I have put together the top ten best ciders I’ve tried in 2017. I’ve selected ciders that are still available so you can purchase them and make your own opinion about them. The ciders are in alphabetical order by cider maker. Cheers and a happy cider year 2018!

  • A.K. Cider, Limonka, Vizovice, the Czech Republic, made with Jadernicka moravska (Pépin de Moravie)

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I’ve tried a number of Czech ciders this year, mainly at Slavnost Cideru 2017, but Limonka crafted by Martin from A.K. Cider was one of the best. Limonka has a complex structure and each note is nicely balanced not dominating over another. Not entirely dry, but also not too acidic Limonka is just perfect for a larger audience. I loved it! For the full review click here.

 

  • Chyliczki, Cydr Lodowy 2015, Masovia Poland

17410099_10154996658845915_458951715_nMy first acquaintance with ice cider made by Polish Cydr Chyliczki Was at the cider tasting organised by Przemek Iwanek from Piwo i Cydr in Warsaw. I was instantly blown away by Chyliczki’s ice cider. The only cider so far that got 6 out of 6. High acidity beautifully balancing out the sweetness makes this cider drinkable for everyone. Plus the flavour of baked apples and spices. Fantastic! For the full review click here.

  • Divoke Jablko, Cidre Brut, Klatovy District in the Plzeň Region, Czech Republic

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The most frequently consumed cider at Slavnost Cideru 2017, at least by me. Lovely citrusy notes of blood orange, lemon and grapefruit with a hint of funk add complexity and make this cider very quaffable. A cider for everyone. For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Dorset Nectar, Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, UK,  a blend of Brown, Dabinett, Coate Jersey, Michelin, Tremletts Bitter, Taylor, Chesil Jersey, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master’s Jersey, Yarlington Mill and Porter’ Perfection

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Old Harry Rocks is like a jazz jam session, where each flavour would play it’s own music at the same time creating a wonderful, balanced, and unique piece. Lovely refreshing due to citrusy flavours and rustic to light funky notes. A masterpiece! For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob Lebel, Schöner von Herrenhut and Kaiser Wilhelm

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Both the palate and the nose of this Apfelschaumwein are intensely rich, with good structure and depth. Taste wise somewhere between French cidre, German Apfelwein and dry Champagne with a strong but balanced acidity. One of my favourites. For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Gutshof Kraatz, Wilde Kerle 2016 – Uckermark, Germany – a cuvée of apples growing in the wild

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Soft tannins, fruity apple forward palate along with exceptionally long and lingering aftertaste make this Apfelwin a clear finalist and one of my favourite ciders. Perfect for slowly sipping will pair well with any kind of food. For the full review click here.

 

 

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This is the only Irish cider that made it to the top ten. But Longueville House Cider tastes really sophisticated and exceptional at the same time. It’s beautifully balanced with lots of depth and rich flavours complementing each other. This cider will simply appeal to everyone. Not too sweet, not too dry, not too sour and not too funky. Pure heaven! For the full review click here.

 

 

  • Perry’s Cider, Grey Heron, Somerset, UK, a blend of Redstreak and Dabinett

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I guess that any cider produced at Perry’s would taste glorious. It was already difficult for me to choose between the Grey Heron and The Barn Owl, which I’ve sampled in 2017. In the end, I’ve chosen the Grey Heron cause I will never forget the first sip of this cider. Lovely complex, with intensive taste, strong tannins and multiple flavours. Sweet but yet very drinkable. Unforgettable. For the full review click here.

 

  • Ramborn Cider, Farmhouse, Luxembourg – a blend of Erbachhofer, Holzapfel and Wiesenapfel

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Perhaps there is only one cidery in Luxembourg but a cidery producing outstanding ciders from locally available apple varieties. Farmhouse made it to the top ten although their Avalon Vintage 2015 tasted also spectacular, yet is not as widely available as the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse is a perfect marriage of oaky whisky notes with a crisp red apple. With every taken sip I could hear the angels singing. For the full review click here.

 

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There are many producers of sidra in Asturias but only 1947 Sidra Natural from Viuda de Angelon tasted good enough to be mentioned here. Nicely balanced sidra with a spectacular palate. Dangerously drinkable, will make you empty the bottle in no time. For the full review click here.

Ramborn Farmhouse

Farmhouse is another cider from the Ramborn’s lineup that I’m trying out. It is a blend of three apple varieties Erbachhofer, Holzapfel (also known as the European crab apple), and Wiesenapfel, all indigenous to Luxembourg and surrounding areas, where the cidery is located and sources its apples.Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Apples: a blend of Erbachhofer, Holzapfel and Wiesenapfel
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with orange hues and a short-lived white head. Carbonation is artificial but long-lasting and low. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits fruity flavours of red crisp apples and apple juice, which then give way to more intense notes of caramel and wood.

Taste: my first sip is dry with a nice level of residual sweetness and moderate, refreshing lemon-like acidity. Crunchy red apple, yellow apple, pear, white wine and wood with a distant freshly milled wood come through on the palate. It finishes with a delicate lingering wood-like, but not spoiling, bitterness and astringency with a hint of honeydew melon.

Overall: the mix of flavours results in something that could be described as “mild diluted whisky sour meets crisp red apple”. Sounds weird, but tastes amazing.  I actually liked it more than their Original simply because the level of sweetness was more to my liking and tannins were more abundant. Farmhouse is an easy-drinking and delicious crisp cider to celebrate the end of your day, every day. When you can’t decide between cider and whisky, this is a perfect in-between. That said, it’s not a cider for everyone due to its distinctive taste. You either love it or hate it. But, if you love it, the Farmhouse lures you back for more. I think I’m lost. 5/6

Availability: locally everywhere in Luxembourg, e.g. in a supermarket Cactus in Remich. In Germany available through The Hop Shop Trier and online through Ciderei. In Italy from Sidro & Cider. In the Netherlands from CiderCider.

Price: Ramborn Cider Co was kind enough to send me a sample of this cider.