Not sure how much of an introduction today’s article really needs. Five ciders and a perry from a producer who if I have not already described as one of the very best in the world I might as well do so now. All tick the sorts of boxes that flip our intellectual switches in these parts – transparency, full juice, fruit and method diclosure, bonus points for talking about terroir – and all are likely to be very good [spoilers from a-few-hours-in-the-future Adam: they are].
I was recently lucky enough to visit the Finger Lakes region of New York State and visit Eve’s Cidery as well as two other makers of similar calibre, Redbyrd and South Hill, and since I have been writing about the former for Pellicle Magazine I thought I’d probably better taste my way through a flight of their range. Nothing much more complicated than that.
But I do take a moment, just a very brief aside, to comment on the confidence this selection evinces. The labels are elegant, stylish, dare I say wine like, in a rather neo-classical sense which certainly appeals to me. They are fairly pared back, not too busy, and whilst the label copy is relatively frugal, tight, pared back, every word counts. The very name of each one refers either to its terroir (Albee Hill, Home Farm Pét Nat) to its constituent fruit (Wickson, Sparkling Perry) or to both (South Orchard Golden Russet, Newfield Golden Russet).
In each instance I am told how the cider or perry was made, what it was made from and where the ingredients grew. I am generally given a simple tasting note and a bit of background to the apple and the orchard.
Nothing here is terribly complicated. No cryo-wizardry, brain mangling processes, out-there flavourings. To me, Eve’s represents a stripping back of cider to its barest essentials and presenting them as openly and as sensitively as possible. Speaking personally, what captures me most when it comes to cider and perry, the drinks that speak to me with the most soul are those which seek to emphasise the apples and pears, the trees and the land.
In my experience, Eve’s do this as completely as any cidery in the world. They express a confidence that unadorned cider can be as elegant, compelling and complex as wine or any other drink, and as deserving of a place on any restaurant table or in the collection of any drinker. Everything they do – the planting of specific varieties from around the world, the focus on organic agriculture, the conversion to wild yeast fermentation – is in the service of strengthening their emphasis on the apples, the trees and the land, and for that they have my deepest admiration, entirely separate to the liquid quality their bottlings metronomically evince.
Having established that I am a fan, let’s do some tasting. The usual disclosure first: the Wickson, Home Farm Pét Nat and both of the Golden Russets were provided by Eve’s, the other two I bought myself.
First in the glass is the 2018 vintage of Albee Hill, Eve’s flagship cider, named for the orchard in which its fruit grows. The cuvée varies year on year depending on what grows best; you can see the 2018’s blend in the picture below.
2018 is described on Eve’s website as having been cool and wet, in contrast to the blockbuster year we saw in the UK. I’m long overdue covering this vintage, having written up the 2017 about two and a half years ago here.
Eve’s Albee Hill 2018 – review
How I served: Lightly chilled
Appearance: Burnished gold. Still.
On the nose: Beautiful, elegant aromatics with the developed depth of deep citrus peels and oils, pie apple, poached pear and ligniny clove. Petrichor and river moss. Just so compelling.
In the mouth: Palate is sensational. Vinous, sinewy mouthfeel with just a little grip of tannin beside complex fruit and slatey minerality. Wild strawberry joins the blood orange (skin and flesh) and gentle spice. Long, incredibly fresh finish.
In a nutshell: Simply one of the best ciders being made anywhere.
Sticking in the same orchard for the next bottle we have the first ever edition (2021) of Home Farm Pét Nat, a field blend harvested from Albee Hill and bottled before fermentation was complete to achieve natural sparkle. The blend is a bit different to the 2021 Albee Hill still, but the terroir, of course, is the same. Our American readers can buy this for $18 directly from Eve’s.
Eve’s Home Farm Pét Nat 2021 – review
How I served: Straight from the fridge
Appearance: Hazy straw. Brisk, frothy bubbles.
On the nose: Bright, fresh aromatics – foam bananas, apple skins, bubblegum and pick’n’mix. The youth and character of the fruit and a slight touch of yeastiness gives this almost a slight note of good wheatbeer (though that may be crazy talk).
In the mouth: Exuberant yet comfortingly creamy mousse is wrapped around a full body of apples and pears, with zest of lemon, classic Albee Hill slateyness and the lightest touch of fennel. The light wheatbeer quality is still there. Lovely zingy acidity that emphasises youth without being excessive.
In a nutshell: The young, fresh-faced, bubbly face of Albee Hill, but the orchard’s DNA is clear.
Into our single varieties now, beginning with a completely new one on me. Wickson is a crabapple native to America from Northern California and noted for the intensity both of its sugars and its acidity. In the words of the Eve’s back label:
“Wickson has weight. It seems as if all the sugar, acid, tannin and minerals of an apple five times its size are compressed into a glowing orb of pomological perfection.”
2020 was the second year from which Eve’s have made a single variety Wickson, and since 2020 was a heavy drought vintage only 10 cases exist, all made in the champagne method, which I believe went to the Eve’s Club – something I dearly wish I could join and which I strongly advise US readers to.
Eve’s Wickson 2020 – review
How I served: half an hour out of the fridge
Appearance: Pale gold, fine mousse
On the nose: The label says ‘sweetcorn’ and I’d go with that. Also bitter lemon, salty dough, wet granite and lightly sour cherries. Bright and beguiling aroma. Not huge but crystal clear and very pure. Extremely concentrated I’d say.
In the mouth: BIG delivery. Aromas amped up to the max, buoyed by bright, tangfastic acidity and a creamy mousse. Salted summer fruits, preserved lemon, candied almond and graphite. Epic. Major ageing potential.
In a nutshell: Browns on steroids. Save it if you can. Vivid, intense fare.
Our next pair is one I find absolutely fascinating. Both still, both single variety Golden Russets and both from the 2021 vintage. But the first was made from 40 year old trees in Newfield Orchard and the latter from 15 year old trees in North Orchard. So any differences ought, in theory, to derive from the terroir and the age of the trees. It’s well established in wine that older vines yield grapes of greater richness and concentration, and, being larger and boasting bigger root structures, it’s reasonable to think that the same might hold true for apple trees. We’ve discovered in the past that Thorn grown from old trees tasted markedly more intense than Thorn grown on younger trees in a virtually next-door farm – let’s see if the same holds true for Finger Lakes Golden Russet.
Eve’s Newfield Orchard Golden Russet 2021 – review
How I served: Half an hour out of the fridge.
Appearance: Young white burgundy. Still.
On the nose: Ripe pear (almost poached) and melon, with deep florals and a flutter of buttered toast. A pronounced waxiness – crayons rather than candles!
In the mouth: Lovely full body with upfront fresh orchard fruit and melon balanced by light, ripe lemon acidity and a gorgeous butter popcorn malolactic note that rides the long finish. Super minerality. Would have aged for years to come, but was gorgeous now.
In a nutshell: The malic answer to good French Chardonnay.
Eve’s North Orchard Golden Russet 2021 – review
How I served: Half an hour out of the fridge.
Appearance: A semitone paler. Still.
On the nose: Pears and blossom. Almost a fuller, youthful version of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene, if you’ll allow me some mega pretentiousness. Though still. Waxy apple skins and limestone.
In the mouth: Lighter and brighter here than the Newfield – crisp, fresh and packed with green orchard fruit and white flowers. Very elegant, still an excellent cider, but less depth, breadth and body than its stablemate. Albeit still on the full bodied end of dry cider’s spectrum.
In a nutshell: The vibrant, springtime take on Golden Russet.
Let’s finish with a perry, shall we? One I’m delighted to tell UK drinkers (if you’re still with me) that we can actually buy for ourselves over here, at £21 from The Cat in the Glass or £20 from Aeble. Made entirely from 2020 vintage wild pears foraged over 150 miles of walking by former intern Matt Moser-Miller, then put through the champagne method. Coincidentally, Matt was present at one of the very first cider tastings I ever did for what has become this website – a lineup of nine single varieties from Ross on Wye. We’ve kept in touch on and off via instagram, and indeed it was on Matt’s recommendations that I chose the cideries I visited in the Finger Lakes. So thanks Matt – looking forward to trying the fruits of your labour here!
Eve’s Sparkling Perry 2020 – review
How I served: Chilled
Appearance: Hazy, peachy golden. Fine, persistent mousse.
On the nose: Heady, greenhouse-warmed flowers on the lily end of the spectrum. Quite exotically perfumed. Hot soils, red fruits, peaches and fresh river water. Very beguiling and aromatic.
In the mouth: Mousse and jangly acidity (a term of Eve’s that I love and have stolen) are seamless. Florals remain exotic but the fruit character has brightened and is more citrusy. Also stone fruit and green pear. Creamy. Sadly I failed to record Caroline’s full tasting note, but she followed it with the comment: “perries make me write novels” which I thought was too delightful not to share. This perry certainly deserves one.
In a nutshell: Gorgeous, perfumed, exotic perry.
One of those flights that reminds you why you fell in love with cider and perry in the first place. What a joy, what an affirmation of the fruit and the category, to taste six ciders and perries which offer as much elegance, intensity, variety and complexity as these. What stunningly eloquent expressions of fruit, trees, land and care.
Easily amongst the best producers in the world. Buy anything from this maker on sight, and share with anyone who still needs converting to cider. Though perhaps only let them have a very small glass.
Thanks to the team at Eve’s for the Wickson, Russets and Home Orchard Pét Nat.
So great to read your notes—for ciders and makers I already value, but maybe even more so for the makers and ciders I didn’t know of! We’ll have to try to get you and Albert over here and we can dive deep into the cellar.
Thanks Matt, so pleased you enjoy them.
I’m pretty sure we could talk Albert round … sounds a very good plan to me.
All the best
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