If you have the internet, you’ve probably heard about the cider boom. Once a daily ritual for the likes of John Adams & co., cider—the alcoholic kind, naturally—has managed to find itself a very captive modern audience as well.
Ten years ago, simply finding great craft cider was the challenge; today the challenge is navigating the vast stylistic diversity—from funky, slightly vinegar-y Basque and Austrian ciders to elegant, wine-like and often off-dry Norman ciders to the wide range of American farmhouse styles to the old-school, higher alcohol New England style—now available stateside. Though we aren’t quite taking back the 15-gallon per-capita load that our harder-drinking ancestors racked up yearly, demand is such that you’ll now find at least a few great ciders at every urban wine shop worth its salt. Not to mention, with the boom of American craft cider makers (there are now nearly 500 among 43 states and the District of Columbia), there’s probably someone making great cider somewhere within driving distance of you.
So, for this edition of “House Wine,” we assembled a grab bag of some of the best in the market, split between Europe and America. We brought in 12 bottles under $25 to taste blind, all chosen because they represented well on paper (more about our process via our inaugural column), and ended up with five ciders that offer a snapshot of just how diverse the category is today.
For the tasting, we were joined by Talitha Whidbee, the owner of Brooklyn’s Vine Wine; Christy Frank, the owner of Tribeca’s Frankly Wines; Ashley Santoro, the wine director at Narcissa; Jon Bonné, PUNCH’s Senior Contributing Editor and the author of The New California Wine; and Zachary Sussman, PUNCH’s New York wine columnist. From Switzerland to Germany to France to Vermont, here are our picks—roughly arranged from lightest to fullest:
Farnum Hill “Dooryard Cider” #1502 | $15
Farnum Hill has, in recent years, gained a following for their clean, dry, high-acid style of cider. Located in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where they source heirloom apples for their ciders from their own Poverty Lane Orchards. The “Dooryard” began in 2008 as a line of experimental small-batch ciders that they sold out of their on-site tasting room, or via the “dooryard”; they began releasing them to the market in 2011, each new batch numbered on the back of the bottle or keg. The 1502 is saline, finely textured and dry with just a whisper of funk. A crowd pleaser, but one that’s not without its complexity. [Buy]
Weidmann & Groh “Cydonia” NV | $18
Germany isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of cider, but the country is an unassuming powerhouse when it comes to apfelperlwein. Weidmann & Groh, a cidery located about 15 miles north of Frankfurt, makes this cider from a mixture of native apples and quince. Honeyed, waxy and floral (“tastes like Rosh Hashanah,” according to Zachary), with a notable minerality, this was one of the most complex and expressive ciders in the tasting. [Buy]
Cyril Zangs “Easy Cider” 2013 | $19
A year-in-year-out favorite from the natural Norman cider producer Cyril Zangs, the Easy Cider is sourced from nine different varieties of apples coming from orchards around Glos, in Calvados. Fans of bretty, Basque-style ciders will get down with this one, as it brings the funk. Structured and tannic—like the “Bandol of ciders,” as JonBonné put it—this is full of savory Indian spice and no shortage of grip. A dinner table cider, through and through. [Buy]
Cidrerie du Vulcain “Trois Pepins” 2013 | $21
Our hands-down favorite of the tasting, this Swiss (Fribourg) cider sourced from a blend of pear, apple and quince is nothing if not an argument for the wine-like complexity of cider. All hand-harvested from untreated trees, fermented with native yeast and very lightly filtered, this couples pure quince and apple fruit and floral aromatics with a salty savoriness that has a distinct rye bread vibe. [Buy]
Eric Bordelet Sydre “Argelette” 2012 | $21
Perhaps the most respected name in artisanal Norman cider, Eric Bordelet’s distinct bottle-fermented, gently sparkling ciders have become cult favorites. His Argelette—which comes from his typical blend of 40 percent sweet, 40 percent bitter and 20 percent acidic varieties that undergo a longer period on their skins—is a deeply colored, nearly amber cider that’s full of baked apple and caramel character and formidable tannins. The orange wine of ciders. [Buy]
MORE “HOUSE WINE”:
Five Fall-Ready White Wines Under $25
The Island Wines Under $25 You Need Right Now
Five Midsummer Rosés Under $25
Four Chillable Red Wines Under $25
Six Awesome Sparkling Wines Under $25
How to Drink Really Good Wine Under $25