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03 June 2021

'Apples of the moment': Aspall Cyder and Boulard Calvados

 Aspall is an almost 300 year-old cider house (hence ye olde spelling of cyder on the label), as the website tells us: "In 1728, Clement Chevallier planted the first large-scale cyder orchards in Suffolk (England)." Their modestly named Premier Cru Cyder (with serious 6.8% abv) is described as "the first cyder produced by Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild when they joined the business - seven years in creation - and still their favourite drink." I wouldn't argue with that, cider-wise at least. This flavoursome cider is concentrated, appley, crisp and intense, and goes with quite a variety of dishes (spicy, fish, risotto, mature/blue cheese...). Aspall's Organic Cyder offers the same full-bodied strength, and is perhaps fruitier and earthier with off-dry finish. The story goes that: "Perronelle Chevallier was a pioneer of the organic movement and co-founded the Soil Association in 1946. We are the longest standing holders of Soil Association accreditation." You can buy from Aspall's full range direct from their online shop (mainland UK only unfortunately); or the two mentioned here are available at Asda for about £2 a bottle (50cl) and other supermarkets.
 Recently discovered Boulard Calvados 'Grand Solage' (40% abv) after a sudden whim for soothing 'apple brandy' surfaced, which led to some fairly extensive virtual searching and phone calls before tracking down just a couple of independent booze stores in NI that actually stock Calva. This one is made in the Pays d'Auge appellation of Normandy (for cider too); the French département part of this region is located in is also called Calvados (number 14), centred on the city of Caen and including the beautiful towns of Lisieux and Bayeux and trendy seaside resorts of Deauville and Honfleur.
 'Grand Solage' is a blend of different Calvados aged for two to five years in casks, and is pretty classic in style offering plenty of aromatic caramelised apple flavours with neither fiery nor super smooth finish (you need to buy the really fine well-aged and expensive Calvas for ultimate smoothness); just about the right mix of apple fruitiness, kick of alcohol and calming digestif qualities. Nice occasionally in small amounts (obviously) on its own after a substantial meal; but also good for elevating say plain ice cream into a more decadent pud by pouring a glug over it, or to accompany a sumptuous appley dessert like Tarte Tatin or good-old apple pie and cream. £26.99 for 50cl bottle, The Vineyard Belfast.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.