An apple a day - two German Ciders

An apple a day - two German Ciders

Yes, it's true, I should be working on my foolhardy Burgundy project instead of letting myself get sidetracked by stuff that isn't even wine. And I wasn't going to. But I do like Cider. Germany doesn't have a proper Cider tradition like France, northern Spain or Britain. There is a great love for Apfelwein, the fairly sour regional variant, in parts of Hesse, but that has never gained much commercial traction anywhere further than 100 miles from Frankfurt.

So when I found out that Ziereisen, one of my very favourite wineries, had come out with their own cider, and some time after, that a well-known internet wine merchant had begun sourcing a different one from another reputable producer, who was I not to get in line?

First, let's turn to the Brut made by Van Nahmen, mainly a producer of high-end fruit juices based on the lower Rhine, neer the dutch border: It smells appetisingly of - wait for it - apples, freshly cut in half, with some quince mixed in. On the palate, very clean and fresh apple fruit, a nice balance between acidity and sweetness (of which there is a good bit), and polished apple fruit. Certainly well made and very refreshing.

Hanspeter Ziereisen, of whom no more need be said on this blog, calls his vintage cider "Ö", enigmatically so, unless you study the back label, which informs you that this stands for "Öpfel", which again is the dialect term for "Äpfel" (apples). By the time this is cleared up, you're about ready for some cider:

The nose seems a rougher-edged, less ripe version of the Van Nahmen at first, but wafting on the yeasty smell is a special something that I missed before - childhood: The smell of crates or barrels of small, tannic apples and pears about to be driven off for pressing, and of September meadows damp with dew. Not as cleanly fruity, but lively and touching. On the palate, the Ö seemed a good deal drier and not as polished as the Van Nahmen, challengingly dry even, as the alcohol (6%) leaves a trace of tartness and yeastiness that beer lovers may welcome more than the wine crowd. Nonetheless, the more interesting bottle of the two. As for me, I was won over anyway the second I smelled my grandparents' apple orchard from way back.

Submitted by Julian Tuesday, 06/09/2011

In reply to by Christian G.E…

Thanks Christian. It seems I was only semi-informed when I said that Cider doesn't have much of a role in Germany. A vintage Apfelwein sounds very interesting, and other twitter croud wisdom has hinted at the great "Viez" tradition on the Mosel and in the Saarland. Plenty to explore, it seems.

Submitted by Krista Tuesday, 06/09/2011

What timing! I was just thinking about ciders myself. This week I visited the Culinary Institute of America and enjoyed a hard cider in their restaurant. The cider was local from Sonoma County, CA. Delicious and strong fruit flavor.

Submitted by torsten Tuesday, 06/09/2011

Reading Julian's post and Christian's and Krista's comments it seems to me a blind tasting of ciders from across the globe is called for!

Submitted by Elizabeth Tuesday, 06/12/2011

I am writing from Massachusetts USA, where a hard cider revival is going on. I have two questions.

Firstly, is it the custom in Germany to add sugar when producing cider? It is tradition here, but the leaders of our cider revival, the late Terry Maloney and partner Judith of West County Cider, do not do so. They aim for a product that is refined, as wine is, but of course without the added sugar the cider does not have the impact of wine and is very comfortable as a house beverage for those of us who may want to do some mental work after dinner.

Secondly, as to terrior. I am told that our geology in MA is similar to Brittany, the two regions having been separated just recently in our planet's history. MA and Brittany are both apple country. I never did learn about the soils of Germany, despite living in Saarbruecken for four years (and learning to drink beer, and Riesling.) Do your cider farms lie on granite, as ours do? Or something else? (NY is a big apple area also and is on shale. I recently had some sweet, unstructured NY Riesling... There is some really excellent apple ice wine coming from NY, produced by peeling sheets of ice off of the vats in winter to achieve good concentration.) Anyway I wonder what you can tell us about the soil and its effect on the cider.

Submitted by Julian Wednesday, 07/12/2011

In reply to by Elizabeth

Many thanks for your comment, Elizabeth, we're honoured to hear from a real expert. As to your pertinent questions, I'm afraid I'll have to do a Sarah Palin and promise to get back to you on them (except that I really will..). Best from