I’d like to start my entrance into the world of cider blogging with a review of one of my favorite ciders and one that, unfortunately, is leaving the world. I’m sad to report that the family who produces Sarasola will be ceasing production due to health issues. Their orchards will be passed to their old and dear friends who own Gurutzeta Sagardotegia. While I’m sad Sarasola will no longer be available, the kid who grew up on a farm is relieved that beautiful and productive orchards will continue to produce unique and wonderful cider apples.
Sarasola was one of the first Basque ciders I tried. It was weird, tart, funky, sour, earthy and still. Like most Americans, my first encounter with Basque cider, or sagardoa as it is known in the Basque language, wasn’t properly presented. That’s not to say I don’t love Basque cider simply poured into a glass for enjoyment, I do. But I also enjoy the experience of a lovely heritage item like this as it’s intended.
Serving a Basque cider is a cultural experience and something rarely replicated in the United States. If you got to a cider house, a sagardotegi, in Asturias or the Basque region, you’re cider will be served in a small glass with what amounts to a mouthful or two. Your bartender will “throw” the cider into the glass by holding glass about a meter from the bottle and pouring the liquid into the glass. The liquid should land on the rim of the glass and slosh into the bottom. This violent action creates a frothy mouse that needs to be enjoyed quickly. It also mellows out the flavor and makes it much more round. You can watch a video of cider throwing below.
Appearance: Hazy gold.
Aroma: Earthy, mushrooms, acetic notes, lemon rind, citrus, spicy, funk, fruity.
Taste: Sharp (sourness/acidity), mild balancing tannins, low astringency.
Overall Impression: Sarasola captures the rustic, natural nature of Basque cider perfectly. It’s a nice mix of elegance, funk, acidity, and balance. Sarasola falls into the “Sidra Natural” category, meaning it’s not carbonated. If properly poured, the texture is soft and round. I’ve been trying to learn to throw the cider, although I can get some distance, enough to get some of the effect, I’d like to be able to get the full meter distance. Wisely, I’ve been practicing over the sink. Sarasola is a Basque cultural treasure that should be tried while you can. If you see it, pick up a bottle or two.
If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area on Wednesday March 23rd, I’ll be hosting a farewell party for Sarasola (and a hello party to celebrate the arrival of Gurutzeta) at Bushwacker’s Woodlawn location. Stay tuned for details.
CO2 levels: Still, moussed by throwing
Geography: Basque region of Spain
Apples:Unknown Basque cider apples
Availability: Nationally, but stocks are dwindling. Imported by B. United International.