Yes, it's true, I should be working on my foolhardy Burgundy project instead of letting myself get sidetracked by stuff that isn't even wine. And I wasn't going to. But I do like Cider. Germany doesn't have a proper Cider tradition like France, northern Spain or Britain. There is a great love for Apfelwein, the fairly sour regional variant, in parts of Hesse, but that has never gained much commercial traction anywhere further than 100 miles from Frankfurt.
So when I found out that Ziereisen, one of my very favourite wineries, had come out with their own cider, and some time after, that a well-known internet wine merchant had begun sourcing a different one from another reputable producer, who was I not to get in line?
First, let's turn to the Brut made by Van Nahmen, mainly a producer of high-end fruit juices based on the lower Rhine, neer the dutch border: It smells appetisingly of - wait for it - apples, freshly cut in half, with some quince mixed in. On the palate, very clean and fresh apple fruit, a nice balance between acidity and sweetness (of which there is a good bit), and polished apple fruit. Certainly well made and very refreshing.
Hanspeter Ziereisen, of whom no more need be said on this blog, calls his vintage cider "Ö", enigmatically so, unless you study the back label, which informs you that this stands for "Öpfel", which again is the dialect term for "Äpfel" (apples). By the time this is cleared up, you're about ready for some cider:
The nose seems a rougher-edged, less ripe version of the Van Nahmen at first, but wafting on the yeasty smell is a special something that I missed before - childhood: The smell of crates or barrels of small, tannic apples and pears about to be driven off for pressing, and of September meadows damp with dew. Not as cleanly fruity, but lively and touching. On the palate, the Ö seemed a good deal drier and not as polished as the Van Nahmen, challengingly dry even, as the alcohol (6%) leaves a trace of tartness and yeastiness that beer lovers may welcome more than the wine crowd. Nonetheless, the more interesting bottle of the two. As for me, I was won over anyway the second I smelled my grandparents' apple orchard from way back.