There’s no doubt that 2020 will go down as the most challenging year in history for drinks producers, with the cider industry being hit harder than many.
Volume sales have been significantly lower than in an average years thanks to the pub and restaurant closures during lockdown, and the challenging restrictions since.
As a result, many cider makers haven’t finished selling all of their cider from the 2019 harvest, leading to many full tanks and the likelihood that thousands of tonnes of apples will not be harvested this year. This a devastating blow to a rural economy in regions where cider is a lifeblood.
Despite these challenges, cider makers are resilient folk, and have been responding proactively. During lockdown many cideries established local deliveries, online shops and availability through specialist retailers.
The result has been that some smaller cider makers have seen an upsurge in interest for their products from a new wave of discerning drinkers.
This doesn’t come as a shock to me, as I have been commenting on cider’s gradual growth, and awareness amongst consumers, for some time now.
Cider is ready to undergo the same level of fervour and interest afforded to the likes of craft beer and gin over the last decade, and 2020, in spite of all the difficulty and uncertainty, has seen the first indications of this.
New releases have come amid excitable anticipation, online tasting events have sold out, international ciders are being imported and the opportunity for cider to be regarded as a great match with food is being properly understood.
This is what modern cider looks like. Modern doesn’t mean that it eschews any elements of traditional cider making practices – far from it – it’s simply about ciders presenting themselves to consumers in a fashion and with a tone of voice that appeals to these discerning drinkers.
It is little known that cider is made similarly to how a wine is made – a fruit fermentation. And much like wine, the choice of varietal is key.
For cider, this means that ciders may be zingy, fresh and crisp; bold, tannic and earthy or light, fruity and elegant.
Ciders may be still, carbonated or naturally sparkling (like champagne). It could be that the cider has gone through a specific process, like keeving (to retain a natural sweetness) or barrel-ageing.
It could be that the cider has been co-fermented or blended with a fruit (such as quince or rhubarb) or herb (like hops) to add another flavour dimension.
The cider industry has come together to launch a new campaign, called Discover Cider. This online campaign is driving interest and awareness to the full opportunity that cider provides, from the diversity of styles and occasions (as mentioned here), to the sustainable credentials of cider and the wonderful community that exists within cider world. Head to discovercider.com to learn more.
Read on to find my pick of some of the best ciders to drink right now. For more like this, visit our reviews section and discover drinks round-ups including the best gluten-free beer and best non-alcoholic drinks.
The best cider to try
Sheppy’s low alcohol cider, Somerset, 0.5% ABV
This product from Sheppy’s perfectly demonstrates how cider makers are responding to the demand for low/no alcohol drinks. Containing all of the boldness, freshness and character of a classic Somerset cider, it contains only a fraction of the alcohol.
Jack Ratt Cyser, Dorset, 4% ABV
Not all cider innovation needs to be sickly sweet, strawberry-flavoured concoctions. This modern take on an old fashioned drink, a cyser is a blend of cider and mead. The result is a light, fresh drink with a gorgeously warm toasty finish.
Gospel Green, Hampshire, 8.4% ABV
Cider can be made in the identical way to champagne and taste every inch as good. This cider from Gospel Green is pale gold with the finest of bubbles, making it a fabulous substitute for sparkling wine. Expect citrus, stone fruits and brioche flavour notes.
Barleywood Ashmead, Somerset, 5.6% ABV
This sparkling product by Barleywood shows just how well cider can match with food. Made with a majority of the traditional Ashmead’s Kernel apple, it has a brilliant balance of juicy, fruitiness and lighter, tropical zing. Perfect with a Caesar salad or butternut squash risotto.
Eve’s Darling Creek, New York, USA, 6% ABV
Far from being a UK-only phenomenon, you can find world class ciders all around the globe, and many are available to purchase in the UK. From one of the USA’s best cider makers comes this naturally sparkling cider, blending classic English and French cider apples with some USA heirloom varieties, creating a moreishly bold and zingy drink.
Severn Cider perry, Gloucestershire, 5.4% ABV
Cider’s cousin, perry (made from pears) is really rather exquisite, too! Made in the heart of classic perry region, Severn Cider’s version uses traditional perry pear varieties, such as the hyper local Blakeney Red. Expect elderflower and jasmine notes from this one.
Broadway Press Original Ice Cyder, Worcestershire, 6% ABV
This contemporary product from Broadway Press shows that new cider making techniques are being created all the time. Using a unique cryo-extraction process, this cider exudes a full, intense eating apple juiciness from local orchards.
Jaspel’s Woodland cider, Anglesea, 6% ABV
This is a wild-fermented, medium cider, made from the late harvested Anglesey Cox, Russets and tannic cider apple varieties. It’s full-bodied with lingering vanilla and woody notes, proving great cider can be made in unexpected places.
Available from Jaspels (£35 for 12 x 500ml bottles)
More on cider
This review was last updated in November 2020. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@guide to drinking responsibly.. For information on alcohol guidelines, read our
What cider do you love drinking? Share your recommendations with us in the comments below…