If I’m being totally honest, I’ve always had a mixed relationship with football. I was never particularly good at it during school, although that improved as I got older and stopped comparing my ability to others. I didn’t get taken to matches as a kid, but I always supported Arsenal; my mum’s side of the family lived near Highbury and so it was a family thing that if we followed football we supported The Gunners. Moving up North meant that I was a bit of an outsider following that team, but as I didn’t really follow football closely that didn’t matter. I’ve tried to reignite my interest in league football at various points, but ultimately always end up disillusioned and disconnected. However it’s a different story when it’s time for England to play. There is something about supporting your country on a worldwide stage, it’s the same with the Olympics and whether you like football or not, that patriotic unity speaks to a deep sense of belonging and camaraderie I think. Sure it’s competitive and a minority always take it too far, but on the whole the healthy rivalry and banter it creates are a welcome distraction at any time. The England and Scotland match created a bit of friendly friction in The Cider Critic homestead (thank goodness it was a draw), but we laughed and sighed together.
How does this all relate to cider I hear you ask? Well it doesn’t really, but in the interest of a bit of fun and the fact that I have a cider from Ukraine on my shelves and we just so happen to be facing them in the European Championships this evening, I thought why not do our own little head to head here on Cider Review.
I’ve visited Ukraine in the past and found it a fascinating and friendly country. I’d not realised it had a cider scene, but I think we’re really starting to show on here that where there are apples, invariably there is also cider. So Berryland are a new producer to me, I purchased this bottle from CiderWorld, but they are now listed on CiderIsWine (although not this bottle) and I know Adam has a full set to share with you in the future. It’s actually really hard to find much detail about Berryland, their website is minimalist and this vintage and product aren’t available anymore; what I can tell you is that they’re based near the capital of Kiev, they have their own unsprayed orchards and make cider from 100% juice. I hope Adam is able to uncover a lot more for his set of bottles.
Berryland Cydromel 2018 (7-7.5%)
How I served: out of the fridge for an hour in a white wine glass
Colour: lemon flesh
On the nose: very fragrant, full of green apples, lemon, elderflower, honeysuckle blossom and vanilla.
In the mouth: crisp and juicy, the nose follows through to the palate; juicy apples mingled with lemon rind and honey; there’s also a little hint of bitterness, but that creamy vanilla is the star here. Lots of malolactic character which has softened what I suspect was originally a dutiful amount of acidity. Lemon and vanilla is not a typical combination but it works here. The finish is dry and abrupt with a bitter lemon aftertaste.
In a nutshell: it’s a class act and good performance, if you like a buttery chardonnay then you’re in for a treat.
Choosing a bottle to represent England was actually a very difficult choice. We’ve shared some outstanding ciders on here with you all over the last few months (from all over the world too), but in the end to help my indecisive nature I’ve picked a collaboration between two cideries, from two different parts of the country; Nightingale (from Kent) and Ross on Wye Cider & Perry (from Herefordshire). Both of those need no introduction as we’ve done that thoroughly before, most recently for Nightingale here and for Ross on Wye here. What this bottle represents is a meeting of methods, styles, fruit varieties and friends. Bramley with its punchy bright acidity that I covered in a fair bit of detail a while back. Then Dabinett, the country’s most widely planted cider variety, a reliable staple of the cider makers’ armoury and one that many use as a single variety creation.
Ross on Wye & Nightingale – Dabinett & Bramley 2019 (7.4%)
How I served: out of the fridge an hour in a Ross (sommelier) glass
Colour: golden sun rays
On the nose: smells of victory 😉 seriously though it’s exceptionally complex, leather, wood and spice partnered with green apples and citrus aromas.
In the mouth: blimey, very different to the last time I tried it, time in the bottle has evolved this one considerably. The Bramley seems to have reared its head and said, “hang on a minute, I’m here too”. That “green sourness” of bright Bramley acidity is starting to shine through underneath the vanilla and orange pith of the Dabinett. It’s a 50/50 blend and it feels on more an equal footing than ever. I still feel like if this had some more time in it, that acidity could soften and those tannins could mellow even more. It’s a joy to drink but I find myself wondering what it will be like on another 6 months. I put the bottle back in the fridge to cool it down again and it’s all acidity and vanilla, oak and Bramley, and we all know Bramley. The Dabinett is a little lost at the moment but it’s biding its time.
In a nutshell: back of the net! It’s like a smart one-two onto the palate (stick with me I’m really trying with these football metaphors), the Bramley acidity hits a howler whilst those oak-aged tannins offer a group hug to the goal scorer.
To be honest, I’m a little sad I’ve drunk these already. What fun it would have been to actually drink them alongside the game tonight, it would have certainly given me a different focus to the nerves that will no doubt follow a roller coaster of emotion. Can I pick a favourite or a winner? I had intended to, but they’re so different (I know, I know…the coward’s way out). Honestly the Ross on Wye and Nightingale hits the spot out of the two, there’s just more to it and those tannins intertwined with that fresh acidity just tick all the boxes for me. That’s not to say the Berryland isn’t interesting [Ed: ever the diplomat], but I’m more excited by the collection from them that Adam has, than what I have here today. High hopes for what he’ll be sharing. As for tonight’s competition, whoever you’re supporting, may you enjoy the beauty of the game whilst drinking some fantastic cider. Cheers or Budmo!