Refreshing and slightly bubbly, Anthony Nappa Wines has released two small batch sparkling ciders under its reserve Shared Table Farmhouse label ahead of fall.
The two hard ciders, The Farmhouse Style and The Grape Pomace, are low alcohol and easy drinking with an effervescence achieved through a technique called bottle conditioning, similar to a method used to give sparkling wines their fizz.
“We prefer sparkling cider,” said winemaker Anthony Nappa, who founded his eponymous label with wife, Sarah, in 2007. “They are light — only six or seven percent alcohol — and are slightly sparkling, slightly acidic so it’s a great alternative to a heavy beer.”
This is the first time since 2009 that Anthony Nappa Wines has released a hard cider. The Shared Table Farmhouse label features reserve wines and one-off productions from the Anthony Nappa brand. The line includes sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer, viognier, cabernet franc and now the two ciders, which were released in June.
The cider production came down to fortuitous timing. Apple season coincides with fall harvest when Nappa, who is also the winemaker at Raphael Vineyards in Peconic, is focused on grapes. When the call came that apples were available from an upstate orchard in late winter, Nappa took advantage of the slow season to produce 150 cases of each cider.
“It is always fun to have something fermenting,” he said. “We were fermenting the cider in February and March, not during the chaos of harvest season. Plus we didn’t want it sitting in the barrels for too long. We got it in the bottles in May.”
The Farmhouse Style is first fermented in oak barrels, a traditional American way of making cider, he explained.
“It is like the way people have been making cider for hundreds of years,” he said. “You do get some secondary flavors from the oxygen that comes into the barrel.”
The Grape Pomace is first fermented on spent grape skins, a byproduct of the winepress. The skins impart tannins and a rosy color to this cider.
“This cider is going to be more fruity,” Nappa said. “It has a berry, sweet component where as The Farmhouse Style has a more traditional hard cider flavor that is a little more acidic driven.”
Both ciders first wild fermented and then aged sur lie in the bottle to make the ciders sparkling.
“To get the bubbles in the bottle we did a second fermentation in the bottle, just like you would a Champagne,” he said. “We start with the finished [flat] cider and prime some sugar to start the second fermentation in the bottle.”
The yeast in cider converts the sugar into alcohol and the byproduct is the carbon dioxide that creates bubbles. The sediment from that process — known as the lees — remains in the bottle. This sur lie aging technique allows the ciders to improve over time.
“Because the sediment is in the bottle, the cider will continue to evolve and change flavor profile just like the difference between a champagne that is a couple years old versus a champagne that is 10 years old,” Nappa said. “The flavor of lees breaking down in the bottle changes the way it tastes. You can keep them in your cellar and see how they continue to evolve.”
The Shared Table Farmhouse brand gets its name from the family’s Southold farm, which is depicted on its wine and cider labels designed by local artist Nadira Vlaun.
The Farmhouse Style and The Grape Pomace are available at The Winemaker Studio, located at 2885 Peconic Lane in Peconic