THIS FALL, FOCUS ON THE ALL-FAMILIAR APPLE
By Wendy Crispell, CSW, WSET
I find that in the U.S., apple wines
and ciders often get a bad rap,
with the general consensus being
that they are all sickeningly-sweet,
girly beverages not meant to be taken
seriously. Many people not willing to
even try apple wine aren’t aware it can
be deliciously dry or off-dry, with interesting
flavors and aromas. While it’s not
something you might buy to lay down
in your cellar or drink daily, it is a wonderful
pairing with many cheeses, cream
sauces and fruit desserts. Think about
how many times you have had apples
with different cheeses, or even apple pie
with melted cheddar.
In Europe, many regions have specialty apple wines, made in delicate styles with subtle nuances, individual terroir, and careful attention to the selection of fruit used. In the Normandy region of France, for example, a more tart, small variety of apple is used to produce AOC Cidre du Pays d’Auge, which is bottled with a Champagne-style cork and cage. AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) regulations guarantee origin, method of production and quality. There is even a Cidre trail that you can travel, visiting various producers to taste and purchase not only cider, but also the famous Calvados brandy made by most apple wine houses. A specialty soft cheese aged with apple must is often paired alongside cured meats and jam.
Northern Spain also has a famous apple wine called Sidre de Asturias, protected under its regulatory system known as DO (Denominación de Origen). This wine is slightly sweeter than a similar variety produced in Basque Country. From January through April, while bottling takes place, siderias (apple wine vendors) serve it in its natural state directly from kupelas, or barrels, made from chestnut. Spain’s stellar Cabrales blue cheese, along with some spicy chorizo sausage pairs well with this sweeter style.
Apples, and apple wine and cider, were very popular with the early American colonies, especially in New York. The tradition survives today, as there are more than a few different styles of apple wines and spirits being produced in New York State – from fresh and fruity to dry and crisp. Hudson Valley’s many offerings include unique distilled spirits, brandy and cider from Harvest Spirits, all based on the glorious apple, and Enlightenment Wines’ unfiltered, natural-style fruit wines, made in fewerthan- 100 case quantities. Definitely not your average style wine, with experimental aging currently being explored. Brookview Station Winery’s Whistle Stop White, an off-dry apple wine, won the Cornell Cup in 2007 for “Best Hudson River Region Wine.” With slight floral notes and a lingering finish, it’s very close in style to the German Apfelwein (see sidebar). Warwick Valley Winery’s Doc’s Draft, Hudson-Chatham Winery’s Pomme Bulle and Applewood Winery’s Apple Blossom wine and Stone Fence hard cider are all delicious examples of apple wines and cider. Each has its own unique style while exhibiting aromas and flavor of quality Hudson Valley fruit.
Whatever the style, Hudson Valley apple wines, like their European counterparts, are a great pairing with a number of aged cheddars, alpine style cheeses, and many other styles – from young, fresh goat cheeses to aged semisoft cheeses.
So, grab a bottle of apple wine or cider today to pair with local cheeses, mustards, and hearty breads. Or try this version of Germany’s famous marinated cheese (see sidebar), using an unflavored Tilsit style cheese like Brovetto Dairy’s Harpersfield Cheese. Cheers!
Wendy Crispell, WSET Advanced Certificate, CSW is a wine and cheese specialist based in both the Hudson Valley and NYC. Join her for one of her weekly wine and cheese classes aboard the motor yacht Manhattan or plan your own private event in your office, home or event space. www.wendycrispellwine.com