Ross-On-Wye is the first of the traditional English farmhouse ciders that I’ve reviewed–it contrasts on several dimensions with standard commercial ciders. Phenolic and slightly funky, semi-dry, astringent, and uncarbonated (still), it has a depth of character that I have not encountered before except in a few examples of the style that I’ve tried but not yet written about (e.g., Burrow Hill, also a single-farm operation).
It’s the sort of cider that makes me want to drop everything and mortgage myself to the hilt to buy a farm, plant some trees, and …wait for years before they are productive. If they are productive. Hmm…so much for the easy, idyllic life of a farmer.
Anyway, back to the cider: I highly recommend it. The emphasis is completely different from the tart, champagne-like ciders made with table apples or even the tannic, commercial ciders like Strongbow or Sam Smith’s Organic Cider, because while the latter are generally tannic but ‘clean’ in the flavor profile, this cider is broad and complex in its earthy characteristics. The 6.6% alcohol content is mild and doesn’t interfere with the flavor.
Ross-On-Wye has been made for over 80 years on the farm on which the apples are grown and the cider made. If your background, like mine, is primarily in beer, think about this for a moment–how many beers can you name in which the barley and hops that go into it were produced on the same premises? I can’t name any offhand.
Until I started down the hard cider path, this was never really on my radar. Good beer produced locally was simply local beer–something to be proud of and to prefer, assuming it was, you know, actually good. But where do the ingredients come from, and at what environmental cost? With the exception of some local hop additions, I haven’t seen much awareness along these lines in the craft beer community. Perhaps that’s just the nature of how barley is grown, aggregated, and distributed in the grain industry vs. how fruit is grown, but nonetheless cider provides an opportunity to expand one’s thinking about local ingredients and their uniqueness–there are 7000+ varieties of apple–in ways that are often thought to be the exclusive ‘territory’ of the wine community.
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