Take it home: an extraordinary apple drink and a wonderful, but unpopular, vine

Each week John Wilson selects two drinks to try right now. This week: Stonewell Tawny and Carignan Premium Old Vines

Daniel Emmerson of Stonewell Cider

Daniel Emmerson of Stonewell Cider

 

Stonewell Tawny 15%

It’s not a cider, it’s not a beer, and it certainly isn’t a port. Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider likes to play around a little – witness his appetising Esterre sparkling cider and low alcohol Tobairín. The Stonewell Tawny is something else: fermented with the help of some sugar to an impressive port-like 15 per cent, it is then dry hopped, as in a beer, at the end. The result is quite extraordinary, but in a good way. There is a burst of apple spiked with spice and ripples of butterscotch. Sort of like a liquid alcoholic apple pie.

It’s all part of Stonewell’s plan to get us to drink cider in a more refined manner. “A well-produced cider can stand shoulder to shoulder with good wine,” says Daniel Emerson of Stonewell. “The reaction has been extremely positive, I haven’t heard one negative comment so far. It won a prestigious Pomme d’Or award at the Frankfurt Apfelwein Welweit earlier this year.”

Beautifully packaged, I can see this ending up in the stockings of many beer, cider and general booze lovers. My bottle went very well with several cheeses and I suspect it will go nicely with many desserts over Christmas.

Carignan Premium Old Vines 2014, Côtes Catalanes €10 Supervalu

Carignan does not have a great reputation. In her book The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson says “it is high in everything – acidity, tannins, colour, bitterness – but finesse and charm.”

Yet this was once the most widely planted grape variety in the Languedoc-Roussillon, itself the biggest vineyard in the world. Why? Well because it gave a massive crop of grapes, which in a market not very interested in quality, meant economic success.

Derided for years as barely drinkable, more recently a few producers have shown that old vines grown in good sites can produce amazingly good wine. Hence the Premium Old Vines title above. This wine is made from very ancient vines planted in the Roussillon, close to the Spanish border. The wine is deliciously simple and fruity, with a smooth finish. Perfect for large dinner parties where volume is required.

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