I enjoy tasting cider. Not just drinking it (I quite enjoy that as well), but trying to objectively quantify each cider I come across. Towards that end, I have developed a basic set of rules for myself. These rules and guidelines help me to be more objective about my cider tasting.
If you enjoy drinking cider, then I urge you to, on occasion, sit down and really pay attention to a bottle or two. Perhaps use some of the guidelines I outline here. Take some notes. Think about what you are smelling and tasting. Not for any elitist purpose. Indeed for the opposite reason. To get down into the magaya yourself and start seeing, smelling, and tasting the way you would if you worked with cider every day. Tasting is not elitist at all. It is the closest we can hope to get to a familiar palate without going and working in a llagar ourselves.
Equipment For Tasting Cider
There is much to be said for the traditional form of Asturian cider pouring. When it is done by an expert, there is really no better way to properly aerate cider. That said, few of us are experts. And even fewer have an expert escanciador on stand-by at home to pour for us.
For my cider tasting, I use the same mechanical escanciador for all tastings. The one I have is made by Guixidrin and works via manual pump action. I highly recommend it for those serious about drinking still cider at home.
I also use a standard Asturian style cider glass. They are cheap and easy to come by in any bazaar in Asturias, and are traditional. So why deviate?
I have developed a few tools of my own to help in evaluation. I have a laminated SRM chart of my own design for describing the color of the cider. It provides a way to set the glass in the center of the chart for easier identification of the color. Click on the image of the chart to the right to download your own copy suitable for printing.
I have also developed an English language lexicon from the traditional Asturian phrases used to describe cider. You will find it linked at the bottom of every cider review I post here.
I have also worked out a tentative style standard for Asturian cider. As far as I know, it is the first complete standard published in English. Certainly it won’t be the last. I hope not at least. I would much prefer that Asturian cider take its rightful place among the other great ciders of the world and get the recognition that comes with accepted standards from the large tasting bodies. If I can help shepherd that along, I’ll be happy with my contribution.
The best temperature to drink cider is whatever the temperature of the bottle in front of you is. The second best temperature is 14℃. I keep my cider in a fridge for just long enough to chill it to optimum temperature. For me that turns out to be just about the same amount of time that it takes for a refrigerated cheese to come up to the proper temperature for eating. Cheese out, cider in, wait 40 minutes, enjoy! Life could be much worse.
I invert the bottle a couple of times before uncorking and putting it in the escanciador. That helps to disperse the lees into the cider and gives me a more authentic dispersion.
Personal Cider Tasting Preparation
Being personally prepared for tasting cider is just as important as preparing your tools and your cider.
- While I do drink plenty of cider at llagares or sidrerías, I do not take tasting notes there. I prefer to take a bottle home and do my “official” tasting in the same calm circumstances for each cider.
- I do not like to taste cider after eating. Therefore I usually wait a couple of hours since a meal to avoid any lingering taste fatigue.
- I also try not to taste more than one or two ciders in a sitting, for the same reason.