Monday, 21 July 2014

The second Summer of Cider

Wow - cider is becoming big news in Poland. Last week in Auchan, looking for the cider among all the beers where it used to be, I saw none. "So much for continuity of supply," I thought before spinning round and seeing that amount of shelf space being used for displaying cider had doubled yet again. "Hello - what's this? It's Weston's Old Rosie! And this - what's this one? Why, it's Henry Weston's 2013 Vintage Oak Aged Herefordshire Cider. And of course Polish ciders - a novelty only last year - Miłosławski, Cydr Lubelski, Warka Cider, Green Mill, Joker.

Cider - as opposed to apple-juice flavoured beer (YEEUCHH!!!) has caught on in Poland at a pace most fast-moving consumer goods companies daren't imagine. Back in January 2013, the Ministry of Finance reduced the excise duty on ciders below 5% alcohol by volume to something approximating the duty on beer (stronger ciders are still being treated as wine, excise-wise). This gave Poland's fruit wine manufacturers like Ambra and Warwin the opportunity to change their client base from rural alcoholics to urban hipsters. At around the same time, a change in the law was made to encourage the production of artisan ciders by Polish apple-growers, though limiting production to 10,000 litres of farm-produced cider per year. The new law is so complicated in practice that out of Poland's 60,000 apple growers, only two have taken advantage of the new opportunity.

The main problem is the banderola, or excise band. By law, this has to be glued over the bottle top as proof that excise duty has been paid. A 7.8% beer is exempt from the banderola, a 4.5% cider isn't. ABSURDITY! The small, craft cider makers have to sell their own cider, duty paid, in huge containers, to bottling plants that can affix the banderola, and then buy their own product back, now bottled and banded, for further sale. And a further absurdity is that while it is perfectly legal to advertise a 5.2% beer on a billboard or on TV, it is illegal to advertise a 4.5% cider. Can a government spokesperson explain WHY?

If the Polish government were to liberalise these foolish regulations, cider-making in Poland could take off. Dozens - nay, scores of local craft cider makers would spring up, making (as they do in England), fine single-apple variety ciders, creating local employment and developing new skills and new markets. Poland - the world's second biggest apple exporter, and Europe's biggest apple grower, instead of shipping tanker-loads of apple-juice concentrate to England where it is converted to cider, could be making cider here instead. If only the Ministry of Finance would treat cider exactly as it treats beer.

Please feel free to turn this into a social media campaign!

So then - Mr Dembo's Cider Sensations for the Summer of 2014...

From Poland - Cydr Ignaców. One of the 10,000-litre limited craft ciders. Splendidly balanced, semi-dry, semi-still, this is rated as the best cider made in Poland, made by enthusiasts in Ignaców, some 15km south-west of Grójec, right in the heart of Poland's apple country. Last year's vintage is available (5% abv) in small, 275ml bottles. One to savour. Already becoming available in the UK.

Next up we have Jabcok Maurera (left). Jabcok (pron. 'YUBtsok') is a slang expression for cheap apple wine; a nice touch of self-deprecating humour on this quality product selling for 13zł. I found this one in an organic restaurant in Służewiec Przemysłowy (on ul. Postępu). This one, like Weston's Old Rosie, is cloudy; naturally-occurring carbon dioxide adds slight fizz. Stronger at 7.7%, a fine cider that captures the taste of rural cider-making in England. Maurer is from southern Małopolska, not too far from juice-maker Tymbark.

Turning to English ciders available in Poland - I must say that Old Rosie (not cheap at 17 złotys for 500cl) is excellent. One of the very best I've ever tried. Other Great British ciders you can find in Poland include Sheppy's Single Variety range (Oakwood, Dabinett and Kingston Black are three I tried; all are excellent and as different from one another as a Merlot is from a Shiraz). The Westons' ciders are imported by Kamron s.c.(www.kamron.pl), the Sheppys' ciders by BRN Services (www.ciderhill.pl).

If none of these are available, I go for Cydr Miłosławski, failing that Warka's Cider and Perry are generally available, as is Cydr Lubelski. Both Warka and Lubelski are extending their brands - Warka has launched 'Double' cider and perry (both 8.5%), while Lubelski has broadened its range of one with a honey-sweetened cider.

If Poland's restrictive regulations and excise duties on cider were to be brought into line with those for beer, Poland has the potential a) to become a big importer of excellent English ciders, and b) learn how to made excellent cider for domestic pleasure plus export to all points north, east and south!

This time last year:
North Wales in the sun

This time two years ago:
Back at Penrhos

This time four years ago:
A farewell to Dobra

2 comments:

Neighbour said...

Michael,

The repid expansion of cider on shelves of Polish supermarkets has been reflected here (in Polish):
http://winicjatywa.pl/2014/07/09/12-rzeczy-o-cydrze/
and here:
http://winicjatywa.pl/2014/07/11/polski-cydr-panel-degustacyjny-2014/

Enjoy!

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Neighbour

Many thanks for those links, of which the tastings are most interesting. I'd argue with one or two of the ratings - the Jabcok, for instance, the taster either had a particularly bad bottle - or else I had a particularly good bottle, which does happen.

Ignaców's products get a good press!