Cider

Cider is more than just a drink in Asturias; it is truly a culture and a way of life that begins in the apple orchards, passes through the cider mill (llagar) and ends in the cider tavern (chigre) and in parties held in cider mills (espichas), accompanied by good food and music.

Asturian cider culture
Group of friends drinking cider

Asturian cider constitutes a deeply rooted symbol of identity which sets the region apart from other lands and cultures. One of the fruits most characteristic of Asturias, where more than 500 different varieties are found, apples constitute the essence of cider.  The cider-making process begins in the spring with the blossoming of apple trees, a sight to behold in the orchards (pomaradas), and continues at the cider mill (lagar, o llagar in Asturian), where the apples are turned into cider. Over 40 million bottles of cider are produced in Asturias, divided among the 80 cider mills in the region, mainly located in Gijón, Villaviciosa, Nava and Siero. Ninety per cent of this production is consumed in Asturias, which is in turn the Autonomous Community producing 80% of the cider made in Spain. Cider is pre-eminently consumed in restaurants, cider taverns and cider mills, where typical gastronomic parties known as "espichas" are commonly held. It is also frequently consumed during pilgrimage feasts (romerías) and open-air dances usually held in fields (verbenas).

The only cider in the world that is poured from a height

Asturian cider is unique in being the only one in the world that is poured from a height. What does pouring cider from a height (escanciar) entail and why is it done? Pouring cider from a height is done with the pourer's arm held straight up in the air while holding the bottle in the right hand and the glass in the left hand, with the thumb and index finger surrounding the glass and the middle finger supporting the bottom. After adopting this position, the cider falls abruptly from a considerable height and beats against the edge of the glass (espalmar), thus forming froth.  The correct degree of oxygenation is assured and the cider is ready to drink in one generous sup, known as a "culin" in cider slang. What's more, you are not supposed to drink the entire contents of the glass, but should leave a little to clean where you drank from, as the cider glass is traditionally shared. A veritable show of art and tradition.

Types of cider
cider and cheese from Asturias

Three different types of products are to be found within the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) category:

  • Traditional Natural Cider

This needs to be poured from a height and is not filtered. This fermented apple beverage is made from 22 recognized PDO varieties. It has an intense straw yellow colour which is relatively transparent.

  • New Expression Natural Cider

This does not need to be poured from a height and is stabilized. This fermented apple beverage is made mainly from 12 PDO varieties and is filtered before bottling. Lemon yellow in colour with tones of green and gold, it contains microbubbles.

  • Sparkling Cider

Its main characteristic is that its carbon dioxide content comes from the fermentation itself and it has a dry, brut-like taste. Fermentation may take place in the bottle or in the vat and it is pale yellowish in colour with golden sparkles and fine bubbles.

Group of people picnicking with cider

Other types of cider:

"Duernu" or sweet cider, obtained from the pressing of apples. This cider is made immediately after the apple harvest in October and is consumed at this time of year, often paired up with roasted chestnuts in a gastronomic feast known as "amagüestu".

Organic cider is made from organic apples, of which there are 22 varieties.

Ice cider, inspired by the exclusive Canadian ice ciders, is made from apples which have been picked when frozen. This essence of cider requires complex temperature control systems in the cider mill to reproduce the effects that frost would have in the orchard.

Brut cider is produced following traditional champagne- and cava-making techniques. In this case, the raw material employed comprises Asturian apples, producing an apple "champagne", with bubbles that tickle the mouth and an intense, fresh flavour.

Further information: www.sidradeasturias.com