There was a time in this country’s history when hard apple cider was the drink of choice — not wine or beer. That has obviously changed since then, but cider has made a serious comeback in recent years.
A lot of the cider you find on shelves today isn’t very good. It is mass-produced, sweet and unbalanced, and meant more as a beer alternative than anything else. It’s packaged as such, too, available in six packs at just about any store that also sells beer. These ciders aren’t very interesting and you’ll probably never see them mentioned in these pages.
There is an entire other category of hard cider, one more akin to wine. Cliché or not, these ciders, including Bedell Cellars 2017 Cottage Cider, are made by hand, not in huge factories. They are made with care and with quality in mind. And you can certainly taste the difference.
Made using a variety of dessert apples like Macintosh, Gala, Empire and Idared, winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich bottle the cider before it was finished fermenting, which then carbonates the cider as fermentation continues in the bottle. This is known as methode ancestrale or pétillant-naturel style — pet-nat for short.
The resulting cider is frothy, with just a little bit of sweetness (it should get even drier as it sits in the bottle and continues to ferment). It exceeded my expectations. It smells and taste of fresh apples, of course, but also of citrus peel and spring meadow (a combination of flowers, grass and earth). There is a little bit of a yeasty funk — in a good way — too. Oftentimes when cider is made from eating apples (rather than cider apples), the mouthfeel suffers. But the pet-nat style helps here with a creaminess brought about by time on the yeast.
I plan to drink this as I’m prepping Thanksgiving dinner. Available at the winery for $18, only 220 cases were made.