Sour Ciders encompass those produced in Northern Spain (notably Asturias and the Basque Country) and other regions in which similar apple varieties and production techniques are used to achieve a profile similar to traditional Spanish ciders. In Asturias these ciders are known as sidra natural. In the Basque Country these ciders are known as sagardo naturala.
Modern styles of cider produced in this region (such as Nueva Expresión or Espumosa) that have lower levels of volatile acidity may be better entered in Modern Cider or Heritage Cider.
Traditional Spanish cider is made primarily with sharp and semi-sharp local apple varieties. Each pressing takes 2-3 days to complete, and the tradition is to allow wild yeasts to ferment the cider, rather than using cultured yeasts. After pressing, the juice is pumped into chestnut barrels or stainless steel tanks. Traditional Spanish cider requires both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation (MLF) to reach completeness.
The traditional skill of pouring of cider in Asturias is unique. The bottle is held in one hand with the arm reaching as high as possible. The glass is held, at an angle, in the other hand with the arm stretched down as low as possible. The cider is carefully poured so that a thin stream of liquid drops from a height into the tip of the glass. Only a small amount of cider is poured, just enough to consume in a mouthful or two. The aim is to release carbon dioxide in the cider and to volatilize part of the acetic acid.
Ciders from Asturias typically have fresh citric and floral aromas. Ciders from the Basque Country may also exhibit light spice, leather, and smoke aroma. Aged cheese and butter aromas may also be encountered, but any excess is undesirable.
These ciders are unfiltered, so cloudiness is normal. Shaking the bottle before opening and pouring is recommended. The color for Asturian ciders should be straw yellow. The color for Basque ciders tends toward pale to deep gold. Amber or darker colors are considered faults.
Professional tasting competitions in Asturias require specific visual evaluations after the traditional pouring of the ciders.
Espalme – Foam must disappear quickly from the top of the cider.
Aguante – Refers to the carbon dioxide bubbles in cider. After traditional pouring, small bubbles disappear slowly, allowing just enough time to drink the cider in perfect condition.
Pegue – Refers to the thin film adhering to the sides of the glass after the cider has been drunk. It is viewed favorably.
Medium-bodied mouthfeel. No sweetness expected. Carbonation is light to moderate, depending on the height of the pour. Taste profile is acidic/tangy, citric/lemony, with little to no astringency or bitterness. Pleasant scratchy and tickly throat due to acetic acid is expected (often more intense in Basque ciders).
Dry, fresh with lively acidity.
Regona, Raxao, Limón Montés, Verdialona, De la Riega (Asturias). San Juan, Errezil, Gezamin, Moko (Basque Country).
ABV: 5 – 6.5%; VA (Volatile Acidity): 1-2 g/L