by Morgan Miller
[Editor's Note, July 2003: The text on this page was originally written by Morgan Miller as part of his CyderSpace website, which is sadly defunct. The files were taken over by Dick Dunn of the cider digest, and in turn Dick has kindly passed on the pages relating to Spanish cider to me, for incorporation into the Real Cider & Perry site. If you have any comments or updates on the page, please send them to .]
Most cider drinkers are unaware of Spanish cider, and those who are assume it is inferior to those of the UK and France. I am pleased to notify the cider drinking public, that Spanish ciders on a par to those of the West Country and Normandy. And the consumption of sidra is a highly evolved artform.
In the Asturias region on the northern Atlantic coast above Madrid; cider is the local alcoholic beverage. Driving the highway to the Asturian capital of Oviedo, I was shocked to see Sidrerias and producers everywhere! Traditional sidra is still and comes in corked wine bottles. After ordering a bottle at the bar, a bartender opens it for you and then pours it in an arc over his head into a wide mouth glass held at the waist. This procedure aerates the cider and opens up it's flavor. You then drink the entire glass while it is still 'carbonated', except for the lees which you throw ceremoniously upon the floor. Some Sidrerias have troughs on the floor to catch this sidra run-off.
Historically, cider is the national drink of Euskadi, the Basque country of Spain. These days cider seems to be more common in the hinterlands than in the cities. In fact, the province of Gipuzcoa has published a tourist guide to farmhouse cider makers and cider bars! A problem however, the guide is in Castillian and the incomprehensible Euskadi. The Basques are very proud of their traditional cuisine, which cider compliments wonderfully. Drink Basque sidra while eating Idiazabal, or any number of the flavorful Basque sheep's milk cheeses.
Allow me one last attempt to coax a free trip from the Asturian Tourism Board. The Northern coast is the Spaniards' vacation area. In summers southerners escape to the north avoiding the 35ºC/110ºF temperatures inland. The weather on the North Coast of Spain is quite similar to the Southwest of England or the Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coasts. We traveled there in August and the weather was cool and misty- a great relief! With the exception of the faithful making the pilgrimage to the Gallician holy city of Santiago, foreigners are relatively uncommon. We found both the Asturians and Euskadi quite friendly, especially when sharing their sidra.
Traditional Spanish ciders are still, very dry, with a delicate apple aroma. In flavor they fall somewhere between a traditional English farmhouse cider and the best English and North American 'commercial' ciders. Traditional Sidra is available only in unlabeled corked wine bottles, the producer is identified on the cork. To make traditional sidra, apples were crushed with large wood mallets called mayando in troughs bfore pressing. One Asturian cider maker ages their sidra in chestnut barrels, which I believe is traditional.
There are commercial 'new' ciders available on draft and in cans from thetwo larger Asturian cider makers.
I was lent several chapters from a Spanish language book on cider. I am unaware of the title of the book, but the chapter which was the most use to me was titled "La Obtencion del Mosto" by Juan José Mangas Alonso. Apparently Spanish ciders vary from both Anglo-American and French styles of cider in their use of acid apples as the base of sidra vs. sweets and bitter-sweets in cider/cidre. For example:
North American Still Cider:
Sweets 30-60%, Acids 10-20%, Bitters 5-20%, "Aromatics" 10-20%
from "Sweet and Hard Cider"
Spanish Cider Composition
Acid 40%, Sub-Acids 30-25%, Sweet 10-15%, Bittersweet 15-20%, Bitter 5%
from "La Obtencion del Mosto"
To make this acid base palatable, a malo-lactic fermentation is necessary to convert the malic acid to lactic acid. According to Mangas Alonso several yeast strains are being used experimentally which convert both sugars and malic acid into alcohol and CO2. These varieties of yeast allowing malo-lactic fermentation are Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Schizosaccharomyces malidevorans.
This very incomplete listing and analysis is from an agricultural text titled: Análisis tecnológico de variedades, compaña 1989, by Centro de Experimentación Agraria (Villaviciosa) quoted in "La Obtencion del Mosto". The Centro in Villaviciosa seems to be much like the Long Ashton station was in the UK.
Variety (Classification) Acids Tannins (%p/v)
Coloradona (Bittersweet) .1% .16%
Meana (Bittersharp) .43% .24%
Raxao (Acid) .5 % .07%
Collaos (Low-Acid) .38% .09%
Durón Arroes (Sweet) .25% .10%
If anyone knows anything more about Spanish ciders please let me know
and I'll update this article. I hope to expand the sidreria listings to
include some farmhouse producers!
Contact me, Morgan Miller [Editor's Note, July 2003: From now on please send updates to .]