It's nice to try something original and different occasionally and this Smeaton's Sparkling cider from the Cornish St. Ives Cider Brewery producers is certainly that.
Packaged in a standard 500ml bottle with a light-green apple logo, this gives the immediate impression of being somewhat of an artisan's product and definitely not just a run of the mill, off the shelf bottle pretending to have special characteristics when it is really produced in a huge hermetically sealed factory. No, this is the real thing - bottled by hand and lovingly produced in the far west of the county of Cornwall.
When poured, Smeatons has only a medium sparkle, not a great fizz, and as with all ciders, it is best when chilled - we added ice with ours. It has a pleasing aroma of fermented apple only - no chemical interference here. The only additive being sulphites which are quite normal and preserve the freshness. The taste is decidedly dry, with no leaning towards sweetness at all and none of the 'fizzy applejuice' flavour that many ciders have. In fact, the characteristics of Smeatons Sparkling lean far more towards that of a light wine than most ciders. Its dry, vaguely sparkling feel at the back of the tongue are very reminiscent of certain vineyard products we have tried, and the makers of Smeatons seem to have come up with a very cultured cider.
So, whilst not being a fizzy, sweet drink, this is one that immediately quenches your thirst, particularly on a hot sunny day. However, its dry calmness also makes it highly suitable to compliment most meals, adding to the occasion and cleansing the palate in the way a good wine can. Be aware though, that it has a 6.5% volume, so a bottle or two could be reasonably intoxicating.
This is not a drink for those who like their cider very sparkling and reasonably sweet, which many well-known labelled ciders are, and we would suggest it is more of a connoisseur's drink, for someone who appreciates a more sophisticated grown-up taste, rather than a fruity fizzy drink.
At the time of writing, a 12 bottle box of Smeatons Sparkling would set you back around £38.00 delivered to your door - around £3.16 a bottle.
There are a good number of small cider producers springing up around the country and, as with real ales, the best makers try to offer something special. Every cider maker has his or her own fermentation process and the recipe and types of apple can vary considerably, offering a spectrum of different qualities and tastes. We think the St. Ives Cider brand, which has its own website at www.stivescider.co.uk, has something specifically original in Smeatons Sparkling and anyone who enjoys a fairly strong dry cider will appreciate it. We note that the company, run by husband and wife team David and Kate Berwick, also produce two other drinks which are available called Clodgy Cloudy and Bamaluz Sweet, the names of which suggest that the three differing ciders would cover all tastes. Perhaps we will be able to taste these at some later date.