In 2014, Ross on Wye Cider grafted a row of Spanish varieties, managing to lose the list identifying them in the process. Nevertheless, this is their first crop, and they are delighted. In homage to the principles of Sidra Natural but inspired by Herefordshire principles, they primed this cider with freeze concentrated juice from the same trees. The flavour profile is reminiscent of the best Basque ciders, but unmistakably Ross on Wye in character.
Basque cider tends to be sharper, juicier, and not as tannic as traditional British cider and is made from a limited number of varieties. Although the list identifying the grafts has been lost, it is suspected some of the varieties may be Moko, Udare Marroi, Haritza, Urdin Sagarra and Urtebi Txiki. The majority of the juice from this release comes from the traditional Spanish varieties, complemented with some bittersharp Porters Perfection, all grown in Ross on Wye's own minimal intervention orchards and wild-fermented.
Usually sold when it is relatively young, Basque cider is often drunk socially in cider houses direct from barrels, or bottled naturally still or very lightly pet nat, and poured from height to oxygenate it and induce short-lived carbonation. Pressed in 2019, Spanish Apples has been aged for longer than would be typical for a Basque Cider. Following the extreme principle of Sidra Natural that there should be nothing but juice in the bottle, instead of adding priming sugar, they took inspiration from Little Pomona and froze some juice, then as it defrosted, were able to collect liquid concentrated with sugars as it melts faster than water, using that to prime the cider.
Albert thinks they have made a cider they'd be proud to share with a Spanish cidermaker and say "this is how our worlds meet, a little bit of you and a little bit of us".
Some of the bottles are pretty fizzy - it nucleates a lot because of the heavy sediment - so please open with care, perhaps chilled and/or over a sink! Why not pair it with some pintxos or tapas?
To find out more about Basque Cider and culture, a great starting point is an article by Adam Wells at https://cider-review.com/2020/04/11/a-visit-to-basque-ciderland-plus-two-premium-reviews/
(Thanks to Albert of Ross Cider for giving us a wealth of information that helped us write this description).
The Johnson family has made craft cider and perry at Broome Farm in Herefordshire since the 1930s and have won a plethora of awards, including BBC Food and Farming Winner 2019. They continuously experiment and innovate, while keeping their cider and perry as natural as possible, and chose to grow Spanish varieties because they are always interested in new varieties and seeing what can be achieved with them.