As I find myself nearing the big four zero, I also find myself wondering if I’ve improved with age. I’m certainly heavier, contain more useless facts and have more grey hairs, but are they classed as improvements? I’m not so sure. It’s something I always heard said about wine, but being the novice that I am, I’ve never been sure how much truth was in it. Time is a strange concept after all, we construct it and live by it, but in truth it is only really important in that it passes and waits for no one. When it comes to cider, time has historically been of the essence and there are certain schools of thought that think it does cider no favours. I myself am in the opposite camp, in that I believe in the main that time can be of tremendous benefit to cider. Tannins and acidity can soften, depth can deepen, character can develop and flavours can be enhanced. I’m not saying it’s always the case, some ciders definitely taste fantastic in their youth, but I’ve certainly come to appreciate the influence time can have on a cider’s development, specifically in my own cider making. So are there some ciders that are suited to youth whilst others need time? Does it depend on the apple or method?
Well let’s look at the two single variety Discovery ciders, released for Nouveau Day, that I have to review here. The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that the Little Pomona is last year’s, which Adam has already reviewed here. So why compare? Well to test the ravages of time of course! Have you not been reading my mid life crisis?? Sam Nightingale kindly gave me a bottle of his latest release and I wondered what I could review it next to, when I saw the bottle of Little Pomona hidden at the back of my cider alcove. It dawned on me that it was a perfect opportunity to see the impact of time on a “drink while young” cider with the benefit of a new release of the same apple, albeit from a different maker.
My money is on some positive evolution to the Little Pomona, whilst still retaining some of that vibrancy that Discovery presents as a single variety. Let’s find out…
Nightingale – Fledgling No.3 (7.1%)
How I served it: chilled
Colour: blushed elderflower wine
On the nose: super fresh, fizzy strawberry laces, elderflower and rhubarb. Freshly pressed lemonade with a mint twist.
In the mouth: vibrant, juicy, sharp and definitely Discovery. Strawberries, rhubarb and some floral notes, not elderflower but similar. There’s a bit of the fermentation still with this, a fresh yeast character, it’s slight and not off putting, even adding to the complexity I’d say. It’s incredibly refreshing and youthful, really juicy and moreish. The acidity zings across the palate with sherbet-like qualities. The finish is a juicy burst of crisp red apples and a slight perception of sweetness.
In a nutshell: I wish every day was Nouveau Day.
Little Pomona – Disco Nouveau (6.5%)
How I served it: chilled
Colour: rosé straw
On the nose: a little richer on the nose than the Nightingale; lemon rind, jasmine blossom and ripe strawberries. Dried apple skins and slight woody notes.
In the mouth: all the qualities of Discovery are still there, the bright acidity has mellowed a little over 12 months, but still boldly zips along the cheeks. Strawberries and lemons along with bread and biscuit notes from that time on the lees. No longer quite as crisp, certainly not compared to the Nightingale, but in its place is more depth. A slight creamy character entwines with the lemon-like acidity and the finish is a robust, sharp punch of red apple skins.
In a nutshell: still tasting superb a year on, grown up and developed, but great.
Firstly I have to comment on the quality of both of these bottles and the fondness I am developing for the Discovery apple, it really makes a marvellous cider. The point of my comparison was to assess the impact of time, which did show, as expected, some evolvement of character in the Little Pomona over the last 12 months. What I’ve successfully done is shown that some ciders can be amazing when drunk both in their youth or when left for some time. Which goes absolutely zero miles in trying to answer my original question of whether or not different ciders suit different ages. I suppose the idea of which of the two I’ve tried here is the best is very subjective; I couldn’t decide. The same can probably said of me, some might appreciate my receding hairline whilst others will hate my articles that just ask loads of questions and never answer them.