Wine: Deep in cider
Intoxicating apples for more than your eye
Posted: March 6, 2013
Craig Long from the Horse and Cider Farm in Hranice showcased two English-style products.
Given the number of apples going unloved and left rotting by the Czech roadsides every autumn, it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone decided to do something useful with these sadly underrated gems.
First in were three young Czechs who fell in love with cider during a 2007 summer visit to England. They set up as Mad Apple in Znojmo to produce a commercial bottled cider along the lines of Strongbow, Magners and Stassen, already available here. Since then, the young entrepreneurs have amassed awards at the prestigious London International Cider Challenge. Their annual production soon reached 100,000 liters (26,400 gallons).
Ondra Kopička, who blogs at Winepunk with the cider subsection "Applepunk," from Řevnice, west of Prague, made up his mind to organize a presentation that would serve as a forum for locally based producers and fans alike. Despite the pejorative connotation of the word jabčák - fermented apple juice used to give volume to many disreputable so-called wines - several enthusiasts are now making their own, including Kopička himself. The initial event was very much a chamber affair attracting a handful of samples. This being said, interest has grown fast with 24 exhibits at this year's third edition, held in January at the Veltlin wine bar in Karlín.
Like most of the producers present, Kopička makes artisanal cider for himself and friends. Production stands at about 650 liters a year. He also makes a "superpommeau," a cider-derived liqueur that in fact closely approximates its Norman counterpart.
On the other hand, possibly the most ambitious exhibitor was an American who made quite an impression with his flamboyant presentation. This was Craig Long, of the Horse and Cider Farm in Hranice, complete with a stylish Western hat looking to all the world like a latter-day J.R. from Dallas, behind the counter. The aforementioned farm is located right on the German border near Aš (ideal for a quick getaway, he jests), and showed two English-style bottled products under the Rossbach label (see below).
Cidre Premier take as inspiration the styles prevalent in Brittany (cidre) and Asturias in the Spanish northwest (sidra) with a minimum six-month maturation. Ciders are neither pasteurized nor filtered and come in nicely attired 75-centiliter (0.8-quart) sparkling-wine bottles. Both the dry and semidry mutations are in a tartly refreshing style, and the varietals are a cloudy scrumpy-type cider that appeals more to the passionate connoisseur.
Other producers are basically enthusiasts, making tiny amounts of what is a very cheap and easy-to-prepare beverage often at home or in a garage, whose miniscule production is not intended for sale.
Among these can be counted samples from across the republic, produced in a great variety of manners and sporting endearing monikers such as Dubský, Jablkon, Hájenka, Sajdrajdr, Turčák, Eiriona Mair Jones and Frankenstein. No prizes are awarded; however, if the interest continues to grow as it has done, this may change and cider tastings in another 10 years may seem very different, complete with overseas participation and pontificating sommeliers on hand to clarify everything you could possibly want to know.
Producer of the Month: The Horse and Cider Farm, Hranice, Aš
Craig Long is at the outset of his cider-making career. His company already produces two types of organic cider in 33-centiliter bottles, an off-dry red-label and the stronger drier version sporting a blue ticket. The idea is not just to gain access to the usual outlets but to expand into the field of gastronomy. "Why should it be white wine with fish dishes?" he wonders. "Cider makes a very fine match with fish or white meat." And indeed such ideas have long been accepted in the world's culinary circles. Before starting, partner and "cidermaster" Filip Slouka made a yearlong study of production methods in the United Kingdom. Last year, the pair produced a token 600 liters (alongside 200 liters of perry, the pear equivalent), though, once the operation is fully up and running, they plan to make a lot more. To keep the customer on safe-sounding territory, cider is labeled a fruit-beer product. (More from Rossbach.cz)
Ciders of the Month:
Cider: Rossbach 2009 Red Label
Producer: The Horse and Cider Farm, Hranice, Aš, Czech Republic
This is a very good example of a commercial organic approach to cider. It is composed of seven varieties of local Czech and German apples at 5 percent alcohol. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it kicks off with highly pronounced scents of fresh apple on the nose that carry through onto a mouth-filling zingy palate, with a slightly almondy note to finish. It is worth remembering that with summer finally on the horizon, ciders make an amazingly refreshing and not too alcoholic tipple on a sunny afternoon. (50 Kč)
Cider: Applepunk 2012
Producer: Applepunk, Řevnice, Czech Republic
This specimen is very different to the first, being of noncommercial ecological microproduction. Fashioned entirely from apples from untreated trees in and around Řevnice, it may be a touch cloudy to the eye, though this goes with the territory and does not constitute a fault. Made variously in oak barrels, glass demijohns and stone amphorae, it leads with sharp-edged apple-led aromas while the palate is full of austere but luscious fruitiness. Limited availability. (50 Kč for 50 cl by prior arrangement only; contact email@example.com)
Eight years on and the daddy of all cellar-to-cellar crawls is coming around again in Moravia's largest wine village, Velké Bílovice, just by the D2 highway, exit 41. On March 23, nearly all the local wineries will be open to receive visitors from morning until end. Entry is 1,000 Kč, which includes 600 Kč of vouchers for purchasing wines, free minibuses for getting about the Belegrady cellar settlement, a commemorative glass and much more besides. (Velkebilovice.com)
John & Helena Baker can be reached at