THE D.O.P. OF CIDER IN ASTURIAS
It´s a well-known fact that Asturias loves its cider or sidra. For many Asturians, it´s more than just a refreshing beverage, it is a way of life. But with year on year increases in both production and demand, how has Asturias managed to maintain such quality and standards that defines “Sidra” from Asturias? Apple growing have been common place in Asturias since long before Roman times and the production of Cider started around the XI century when the farmers started apple plantations and producing the drink. Over time, Asturias became a central production base, the first region for cider in Spain and the fourth in Europe after England, Ireland and France. “Sidra de Asturias” is a European Quality Brand set up to protect the denomination of origin, quality control, traditional techniques and the way of live for the growers. The natural and sparkling cider of the D.O.P. (Denominación de Origen Protegida) Sidra de Asturias can only be produced by the juice of a maximum of 22 varieties of authorized apples from the region and it has to have at least a 5% alcohol.
PICKED TO PERFECTION
During harvest time, Asturias is a riot for the senses with the beauty of trees laden with apples, the smell of the apple presses, the taste of the first juice and the touch of the fruit during the hard days of picking. Asturias has 575 hectares of Apple orchards from 275 producers registered into the denomination Sidra de Asturias. The picking of the apple is done mostly by hand over a couple of months. The producers have to make sure the fruit complies to the standards of the DOP insuring proper variety of apple used, the condition of the apple, the optimal maturity and the perfect system of transport and storage that protects and won´t alter the initial quality of the fruit. We visited the apple orchard of producer José María Llamedo in the area of Nava where his crew was ready to pick up to 300,000 kg of apples over the next couple of months that will produce almost the same quantity in litres of cider. The methods are so natural that the crew and ourselves had many a Isaac Newton moment throughout the morning while shaking the trees!
THE WORK IS NEVER DONE
Harvest time is a time when apple growers like Pablo Echanove get to witness the fruits of their labour after a long year of nurture, hard work and sometimes worry. Pablo has been with the DOP for 15 years now after converting from livestock farming to apple production at his farm in Sama de Grado. From the very beginning, he selected his verities of apple based on the DOP´s research and this year he was awarded with “Best apple producer 2014” for the quality of harvest for which he is very proud. In this video he explains what it means to him to be part of the DOP and how growing apples for cider is a fundamental part of the Asturian way of life.
THE ROOT OF THE SOLUTION
We visited an experimental plantation in the location of Nava where the agricultural cooperative Campoastur is developing a new project with 50 varieties of apple in the same orchard for exhibition, research and development of Asturian apples for cider. They plan to expand to 100 varieties over coming years.
SIMPLICITY ON A GRAND SCALE
There are actually 23 llagares (cider production houses) registered to the “Regulator Councellor” of DOP Sidra de Asturias. These llagares have to apply traditional and standardized (or authorized) techniques in every phase of the production of cider from the manipulation and grinding of the apples to the extraction of juices and preservation of the cider. These llagares will produce three types of cider for the DOP: Traditional Natural Cider, Natural Cider (Table or New Expression) and Sparkling Cider. In 2014, (up to October) they sold 1,410,000 bottles of certified cider.
BOTTLE IT UP…..
We visited the Llagar Orizon in Nava where Pedro and Jose Luis guided us through how they make their brand “Novalín” which is matured in wooden barrels and has won the prestigious “best DOP natural cider 2014”. The Llagar at this time of the year is bustling with activity and the delicious first apple juice or “sweet cider” is the treat you get from all their recent labours. Every cider has their own signature and the only thing you can´t ask (or they won´t tell you) it is how they select the right amount of acidic, sweet and bitter apples to prepare their cider.
NO EVIL SPIRITS
Cider in Asturias is also a way of socializing and the traditional chigres or cider bars and “espichas” (Cider tasting) are common in most bars, modern restaurants and gastro bars. All of them with a common denominator, the passion and respect for cider and good company.
Asturias and the region of the cider offers a lot of tourist and gastronomy experiences that involve nature, culture, workshops, visits and of course food. Some Llagares set up bars around the old cider presses and offer espichas is some really interesting locations.
CIDER HOUSE RULES REDEFINED
A great example is the Llagar La Morena in Viella, Pola de Siero where they produce their own brand of cider called “Prado y Pedregral” and offer a complete experience with a space for espichas, visits the cider house and food served with their own brand of cider in this fabulous family restaurant.
We´ll be brining you more stories about the cider production in Asturias but until then we hope you have enjoyed this article and maybe you´ll come experience it for yourself.
More to follow…….
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