Cider - Asturias versus the UK

Land of the Hispano-Celts

I'm back from a very short trip over to Spain. If you've been following, I'm happy to report that my Lavenham quilted jacket was an excellent travelling companion. Light but warm and easy to stow away. I flew over to Madrid and in a short day I just had time to walk round the shops in Serrano — along Calle de Goya and Velazquez (Hackett was very busy there) - and for dinner of suckling pig at one of my favourite dining places, Casa Lucio.

From Madrid, I took a high-speed RENFE train up to Oviedo in Asturias - green Spain and land of the Hispano-Celts. What a lovely trip it was. I normally fly in direct when I visit Oviedo, but I'm sorely tempted to stick with the train from now on. The Preferente-class carriages are well-staffed, quiet and spacious. You're welcomed aboard, provided with fruit juice and newspapers, and headphones for the films they are showing. And, for the time I was travelling, there was a three course meal followed by coffee and brandies. Palencia, one of the cities we pass, looks worthy of a visit another time.

What I'd like to talk about here though is cider. Asturias is the home of Spanish cider. In Oviedo, the capital city of the province, there are many sidrerias where you can sample this regional drink. The traditional still cider has a special pouring technique, which has been developed to mix it with air to bring out the flavour and add a sparkle. A bottle is held as high as possible and splashed into a glass held as low as possible. Only a small amount is meant to be retained in the glass, which is then meant to be drunk quickly whilst the sparkle is still present. My Asturian  friends are rightly proud of their cider heritage. Oviedo is a lovely little city and the cider-scene definitely makes it worth visiting.

Aspall Since 1728

Over in the UK, there seems to have been a resurgence in the drinking of cider, and perry, it's pear-based relative. The range of ciders produced by Aspall is uniformly excellent. And what an incredible heritage the company has. Aspall has been an established family-owned business since 1728, with the eighth-generation of the Chevalier family being the current custodians. 1728, chums! The year Voltaire ended his exile in England and English astronomer James Bradley, priest and astronomer, calculated the speed of light. All have a wonderfully clean and refreshing taste. Good with food or as an appetiser, it is truly premier cider. The long-necked bottles, based on the bottles produced in the 1920s, are attractive too. Maybe I'll take some over to Oviedo next time I visit.

The video shows an example of the Asturian cider-pouring technique. Rough translation of the pertinent points: Throw away a little to clean the glass as it's meant to be shared. The cider oxidises and loses it flavour quickly, so it's important to pour the right amount of cider into the glass and to drink it straight away - the right amount is called a 'culete' or a butt.


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