This Week I’m Drinking. . . . Chalkdown Sparkling Cider

This is the cider I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been interested in cider (or cyder perhaps) since 2010 when I started reading about how high quality high strength sparkling ciders were made in the 17th century by men such as Sir Kenelm Digby and Lord Scudamore. These ciders achieved such high repute that the French ambassador pronounced one Vin de Scudamore. You can see how prestigious they were by visiting the museum of London where there’s an exquisite glass that belonged to Scudamore engraved with apples which was used specifically for cider. You wouldn’t use such a glass for farmhouse scrumpy. Indeed cyder spelt with a Y, was considered quite distinct from the sort of thing drunk by farm hands. I wrote more about this cyder heyday here.

It was a brief flowering, these noble cyders, but they have never entirely gone away. According to Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw’s cider book, Bulmers used to make a bottle fermented cider that was marketed like champagne in the 1920s. Today you can buy quite a few bottle-fermented ciders from Burrow Hill in Somerset, Ashridge in Devon, Tom Oliver in Herefordshire, and Gospel Green in Sussex. The first three are made from cider apples so they have a bittersweet taste, some tannin and a certain funkiness. They’re West Country ciders but the Gospel Green is made from sweet apples on the South Downs, an area which is now famous for its sparkling wines. Gospel Green is made in tiny quantities – about 8,000 bottle a year – but I thought that if someone could make something as good but in supermarket size quantities they would be on to a winner.

Well it’s here.

The Chalkdown 2013 Cider is made from apples grown on the South Downs though it doesn’t say which varieties. It costs costs £10 from Waitrose (though annoyingly they seem to be out of stock on their website at the moment) or £11 direct and I can’t think of a sparkling wine I’ve had that beats it for the money. It combines the green apple deliciousness of a cider like Aspall’s with honeyed yeasty notes like you might get in an English sparkling wine. I drank the whole bottle to myself and because it’s only 8% felt fine the next day.

This is what we should be drinking instead of prosecco or cava. In fact if I was getting married again, I would serve it my wedding.



9 thoughts on “This Week I’m Drinking. . . . Chalkdown Sparkling Cider

  1. Sounds delicious indeed. Alas, they don’t ship to anywhere besides the UK, and finding a merchant willing to ship it to Germany seems difficult, to say the least.

    • Now that I have tried it: What a cider! A bit more assertive than I imagined, it has a delicate and highly attractive balance between fruit, acidity, slight bitter notes – is that tannin? – and the perfect tiny bubbles you’d expect from a sparkling wine made by the traditional method. Excellent!

      I disagree with Henry, though: We should not drink this instead of prosecco or cava. Why deprive yourself of those pleasures? But we should drink it alongside the fabulous Italian, Spanish, and French sparkling wines, because that is where its place is.

      • That bitterness It’s malic acid tartness or hydrolysable derevative tannin from the new oak again

  2. I know Piotr I know his Sparking I’ve tried it I’ve
    Suggested it talk about it ..
    Honest wine making honest Piotr I’m very
    Sure that great sparking will go far
    And I will try to get it in my Sparkling list,
    Thumbs up

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