Saturday, June 5, 2021

Isastegi Sagardo Naturala Dry Cider -- BASQUE Cider

It's Hard Cider Season and There's Only 1 Bottle You Need -- Bon Appetit
that bottle is Isastegi -- see article below

Isastegi Sagardo Naturala Dry Cider...$9.99 / 750ml bottle
Isastegi Sagardo Naturala Dry Cider...$14.99 / 4pk cans
Basque Cider
Isastegi is a refreshing, dry natural cider from the verdant mountains of the Basque Country, high above the Bay of Biscay along Spain’s rugged and green northern coast. Innovation meets 500 years of tradition, making the authentic San Sebastián cider experience portable.

Cider has been produced at the Isastegi farm since the 17th century as cider is an integral part of the Basque culture, where it is an everyday drink. Isastegi transcends the cider category, crafting a unique product born of the experience that comes from practices transmitted from generation to generation, paired with innovation. Isastegi cider is produced exclusively with organically-grown, native Basque apples farmed within a 15-kilometer radius of their cider house in Tolosa, in the countryside outside of San Sebastián.

Isastegi is also a founding member of the Gorenak Society and Euskal Sagardoa, a new PDO for Basque natural cider. It was created in 2017 and allows the use of about 115 local apple varieties grown in the Basque Autonomous Community. It certifies both the quality and origin of the apples and cider. Isastegi has also recently gained organic certification by ENEEK (Basque Organic Regulatory Council) and does not add sulfites to their cider at any point during the process.

Basque Sagardo is traditionally served cold, poured into a wide-mouth tumbler from an arm’s length a little bit at a time to give the cider its signature creamy, effervescent mousse.

Vinification – Each lot is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks with native yeasts. After fermentation, each component is tasted for quality, and the lots are blended together in kupelas (old, large oak cider barrels) for several months. Isastegi cider is bottled fresh from barrel without fining or filtration before each shipment.

Apples: A blend of over a dozen native Basque apple varieties, farmed within a 15-kilometer radius of their cider house in Tolosa
Vinification: After fermentation in stainless steel the cider is blended in kupelas (old, large, oak cider barrels) it is bottled fresh and without filtration before each shipment.
Aging: Blended in large, old oak kupela barrels
Farming: Certified Organic by ENEEK (Basque Organic Regulatory Council)
SO2: No added sulfites, less than <5 mg/l total

Article about Isastegi from Bon Appetit Magazine!
It's Hard Cider Season and There's Only 1 Bottle You Need -- Bon Appetit
It's extremely affordable and not sweet at all.
If you think you don't like hard cider, you're probably wrong. Sure, you might not like the syrupy-sweet stuff you accidentally ordered at that one pub that one time, but calling off cider as a whole, just because you don't like one kind? That's ridiculous. Ciders you get on tap at your average bar are probably of the English style, but there's more out there. To shed that negative association you have with sweet ciders, take a step into the world of Basque cider. It will change you.

Basque Country lies in northern Spain, and yeah, this is the region where Basque cider originated. Ciders of this style (which aren't all necessarily made in Spain) aren’t like the traditional English-style ciders you’ve most likely tried before, if you've had Strongbow or Woodchuck. Basque cider is bone-dry, acidic, and funky as hell, which means that if you’re generally into kombucha, natural wine, or sour and wild ales, you’ll be all about this stuff. If you're not, you will be soon.

Basque cider goes through a completely natural fermentation process, where no yeast is added, which creates that funky flavor. It tastes something like Granny Smith apple juice that was left in a barn for a few days (in a very, very good way), and it’s exceptionally versatile when it comes to food pairing, complementing the flavors of a buttery roasted chicken just as well as intricate curries or fatty fried fish tacos.

And yes, I have a recommendation for a bottle to pick up. Isastegi Sidra Natural is where you should start.  This still, lip-smacking cider isn’t just delicious. It’s welcoming, too. Isastegi is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Picasso or Tabasco or The Ramones. It’s the thing that gets you into craft beer or modern art or hot sauce or punk. But it’s made from Spanish apple juice, blended in large wooden barrels, and leads to serious cider curiosity. It grabs hold of your shoulders, looks through your eyes and into your soul, and gently says, “There is more for you to explore. Go.”
I should also mention that it’s affordable. Like, way more affordable than you’d think. A 750ml bottle will run you somewhere between 8 and 10 bucks, which makes it a perfect contender for a by-the-case pick-up. Never buy just one bottle. You will want two. Or 12.

But it’s what you do once you have the bottle that makes the experience special. There’s a specific way that Basque ciders like Isastegi are traditionally poured. It might seem intimidating, but trust me, you’ll get the hang of it immediately. Start pouring the bottle low, then slowly raise the bottle as high as you can, until you get to about a meter or two (your wingspan) between the glass and bottle. The whole point is to get that cider as frothy as possible when it hits the glass, essentially carbonating it via force. And make sure not to fill up your glass. The Spaniards only pour about three or four sips at a time, pouring frequently and with gusto.

Its flavor is life-changing and exciting. You can buy it by the case, without worrying about acquiring new debt. You can drink it while you’re eating just about anything. And you pour it in a way that is 1) impressive and 2) a damn good time. Basically, Isastegi Sidra Natural is here to party. And I’ll be RSVP’ing “Hell yes.”

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