applesNot wine this week but cider as October is National Cider Month according to CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. Late October is when cider apples are at their ripest and are hand picked, pressed and fermented into a fruity beverage that is a real alternative to wine.

It's the the blend of natural bitter tasting tannins, sugars and the necessary balancing malic acid - the chemical ingredient that makes all apples taste fruity – which turn cider varieties like Redstreak and Crimson King into food-friendly drinks.

The best ciders are made from a mix of Bittersharp, Sweet and Bittersweet varieties. Blend varieties with a bitter skin, low acid levels and a sweet bite and the result is a cider ranging in style from scrumpy to delicate appley aperitifs that taste similar to wine.

woman drinkingLight tasting entry-level ‘women-friendly’ ciders are replacing traditional fizzy ciders on the supermarket shelves. Using a high percentage of the low malic acid Sweet cider varieties makes a drink that tastes lightly of apples and lemons. The result is less like cider and more like a wine made with the white grape Pinot Grigio.

If you want a wine-like cider then try Waitrose Organic Vintage or Gaymers Stewley Orchard Reserve. Alternatively you could just get a cider-like wine - Sainsbury's German wine Niersteiner Gutes Domtal's (£3.69) tastes of lemon, elderflowers and apple.

PG Wine Tips

£3.99 and under

There are still some good bottles to be found that cost the same as a couple of National Lottery tickets.

Expect to pay up to £4 for a bottle of premium bottled cider, but most are more reasonably priced in the £1.50 to £2.00 price bracket.

Westons Premium Organic Cider
£1.68 Tesco, Sainsbury’s £1.68

This Herefordshire blend of Bittersweet and Bittersharp varieties has been fermented and matured in oak vats. And you can taste it too. Creamy, oaky over-tones compliment the light apple flavours.

Wychwood Green Goblin Oak Aged Cider
£1.82 Ocado

Bittersweet varieties Redstreak and Dabinett blend together to give a wonderfully balanced cider bursting with apple flavours. Buttery notes from the oak ageing add interest. A crisp, clean cider that isn't at all cloying.

Waitrose ciderWaitrose Organic Vintage Cider
£1.69 Ocado (but not showing on Waitrose Deliver)

More of a white wine than cider, it's as fizzy as Champagne and tastes like a German Liebfraumilch. A good entry route into cider for wine drinkers.

Sheppy's Dabinett Apple Cider
£1.85 Ocado

This single apple variety cider tastes lightly of apple with a creamy, lemony edge. Very pleasant and not unlike an Italian Pinot Grigio white wine. Another cider for wine drinkers.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference French Sparkling Medium Dry Cider
£1.99 Sainsbury's

French slightly fizzy cider with a sweet apple taste. Easy drinking.

This article has appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on Mature Times