Cider (still stuck in my house) rules – Pilton Cider.

I understand that the theoretical longest measurement of time use to be a “yottasecond’ which amounts to 31.7 quadrillion years (which is also what the period of time from December pay day to the January one felt like). This unit of measurement (signifying nigh on ever lasting time – the universe is a mere babe in arms at 14.1 billion years old) has now being replace by the “whenthepubswerelastopen” which makes a yottasecond seem like a mere blink of an eye (there are 9 billion yottaseconds to a “whenthepubswerelastopen”).

During what felt like the billions of yottaseconds of lockdown, the blog seems to have increasingly turned to booze (coincidence – I think not). I did way more posts last year on booze than the whole of the previous year and I have already done three (wildly popular😬) posts (not including this one) on booze this year. To be frank I like booze and like documenting what I think about it and there is f’all else to do during these bloody lockdowns.

With food (again) limited to cooking at home or takeaways and the pubs closed, I have (with sour beers now very much my thing) been increasingly inclined to experimentation on the booze front – crème de menthe definitely doesn’t work with cornflakes for those wondering.

There seems to be an increasing use of wine “extras” (skins, old wine barrels etc) in the beer and cider making process. Taking note, perhaps, from the whisky industy’s use of sherry barrels to enhance flavour.

I rather like this cross fertilisation and I think wine marketeers could learn a thing or two marketing wise from the craft beer boys and gals in terms of tapping into the youth market.

Barrel age beers seems to be all the rage and some look very interesting to a wine lover like me, such as Thornbridge Brewery’s barrel aged series (using burgundy barrels) and I noted this collaborative approach has crossed over to ciders including some made at Pilton Cider.

Pilton is the Somerset village where I spent (and wasted) much of my formative years (great, as I got free Glastonbury tickets) being a lazy arse and getting into trouble, so stuff from there is rather nostalgic.

I, therefore, put in an order for an ecletic mix of ciders, including one with wine skin contact in the mix and another aged in wine barrels, as part of my aim to further broaden my booze horizons and beat the lockdown boredom.

Ordering was simple and a nice bonus is delivery is free for all orders over £19 – very reasonable I thought.

Pilton Cider makes its ciders based on a keeving process. For the unitiated (which includes me) this process of cider making involves the juice of cider apples and nothing else (no sugar or water is added). A pectin jel cap forms on the top of the apple juice which operates to stops further fermentation (leaving a sufficient level of the nature sugar in the apples intact) and attracts impurities. This leads to the formation of a clearish juice between the pectin cap at the top and sediment at the bottom.

This juice is then carefully siphoned out and put in tanks to ferment in the normal way, although this occurs much more slowly as the cap and the bottom sendiment contain much of the nutrients that drive the fermentation process.

It is hard to get keeving right as it is dependent on a number of factors including having the right fruit (high tannins needed), the right temperature and the right wild yeast all at the same time (and a bit of luck). Lots can go wrong and then the keeving has failed.

The risks and intricacies of the process mean keeved ciders are not cheap (nor should they be). This is cider making at its most artisan.

Anyhow on to the actual booze.

Pilton Keeved Cider (£8.49 – 75cl)

The original cider fron this outfit when they started up back in 2010 (and I suspect their best seller – if the current out of stock notice until March 21 on their website is anything to go by).

Quite a vigorously sparkling number this one (take care when opening it is my advice as the cork comes out with explosive/dent in the ceiling velocity if you dont keep a good handle on it), with bittersweet apple and citrus notes, followed by a dry sourness and just a touch of farmyard funk.

Very refreshing and a good food cider. I drunk this chilled with a pork chop dinner.

Ten (£8.49 – 74cl)

This cider celebrate 10 years of cider making for Pilton Cider. With that meaning it was made in the dreaded 2020, you would be forgiven for expecting it to taste of horse piss.

Actually it is rather nice, with a very pleasing interplay between sweet and dry. Cherry, apple and vanilla on the nose, with light carbonation and a juicy apple start giving way to a tannic oaky finish on the palate.

Very easy drinking gluggable stuff this, which worked surprisingly well with a spicy beef chilli. I found it better when it was closer to room than fridge temperature.

Max Lux 2014 (£8.69 – 75cl)

Apparently the Pilton Cider orchards soaked up over 1600 hours of sunshine in 2014 (my memory is obviously fading as don’t recall that year being a scorcher) and sunshine makes for apples with a high sugar content and a high sugar content makes for good cider.

This cider celebrates what was a seminal year for cider making at Pilton and was a really vigorously sparkling number.

On the nose it had hints of caramel sweetness, as well as apple, giving an almost toffee apple aroma.

On the palate, the vigorous fizz somewhat masked initial impressions. As it calmed I got much more dryer notes than the nose had suggested, with fresh, slightly sour, apple and a touch of citrus. Tannins still very much in evidence, which resulted in a very dry finish

Queen of Brue (£14.99)

I am a big fan of the quince and look forward to quince season every year. Makes a great addition to an apple pie or crumble and I love membrillo

This quince cider had a lovely bright colour to it,

which gave off robust floral aromas. Really like sniffing a cut quince.

On the palate it is very dry (Atacama dry), with a mouth puckering tartness from the quince as well a more tropical fruit notes. I really like this, with the complex floral notes of the quince coming through nicely in the palate.

The price (at nigh on £15 and thus in pretty decent wine territory) is reflective of it not being classified as a cider or perry for duty purposes (rather it is a “made wine” which means more tax), the keeving process and the much higher price of quince as against cider apples.

Very nice, if a touch pricey, I think it would work really well with hard cheese (think how well manchego and membrillo go together) or chicken or winged game dishes.

In Touch (£10.99)

Intriguing stuff this, with pinot noir grape skins from Dunleavy vineyard (just south of Bristol) being mixed in with a just matured batch of keeved cider and left to soak for 3 weeks. The skins are then strained off and the remaining pinkish cider left to mature for a further 6 months in barrels.

Glorious colour to this cider, no doubt from the skin contact.

Really intereating nose, which starts off with a sweet honeyed/toffee apple nose and then has red fruit coming though. On the palate this had notes of red fruit (raspberry) cola cube, dried apple rings and a touch of farmyardy funk. Not too sweet to start, with robust tannins giving it a dryish finish. Not for everyone I suspect, but I really liked it.

Gone Forever (£14.99)

A cherry wine and cider combo that uses red wine barrels in the maturing process, with the aged cherry wine mixed with fresh keeved cider.

Love the label on this number – beautiful artwork I think, with the heavy waxing of the cap making it a right bugger to get into.

Really intense colour,

with initial aromas of cherry and a touch of farmyard funk. On the palate it had a nice, not too aggressive, carbonation with an almost sherbet dip dab taste. There was an initial hit of sweet red fruit (the dip) and then a bit of sourness (more apple than citrus – the dab) coming through as it lingered. So a sort of hybrid between a standard and a sour apple dip dab.

Really enjoyed this – shame it has sold out. I hope they do another run of this stuff.

Verdict

Despite my Somerset heritage, I have never really been much of a cider drinker (bad memories of stuff in a plastic jerrycans, with something horridly slimey – added to the flavour apparently – floating in it) and I think cider still has a bit of a image problem in the UK due to the like of “White Lightening“.

Pilton Cider is, however, a world away from the gut rot stuff. It is a class act and I could really get into ciders like these.

Pops’n’Hops and (I think) the Bottleshops in Cardiff stock both Pilton Cider and other craft ciders. You can also order direct (delivery charges are very reasonable) from their online shop.

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