Bill Dowd photoI convened a four-person panel to sample these ciders from a New Hampshire cider maker who uses old European apple strains.
• Farmhouse Cider:
This is a pale gold, light bodied slightly sparkling cider. It wasn't overwhelmed by the tapas and regular cider we consumed before it, but it put our panel in the right frame of mind: i.e., don't expect a big apple bang on the palate the way we've been conditioned to expect from American-style ciders. Mid-palate apple taste, but not from start to finish. Farmhouse would be nice with mild foods, but overwhelmed by anything spicy.
A slightly more apple-y taste, but with hints of tropical fruit. Tarter than the Farmhouse, very subdued nose. If you fool with it long enough, you begin to extract more taste. Although the maker calls it "a happy companion to most foods," our panel disagreed, noting it worked best with a bit of sliced apple and the gruyere that helped coax out the flavor.
• Extra Dry:
This one was a hit with all involved, possibly because of the more forward taste of apple, a fragrant nose one of our tasters said is "closer to the kind of balance you'd expect from a good wine." Here again, we disagreed with the maker's evaluation that it would be "a palate-cleansing friend to most foods, except perhaps desserts." We felt it would go well particularly with desserts because, of the four Farnum Hill ciders we tried, this one stood up best in all categories -- golden color, full nose and body, and a long, pleasant aftertaste.
• Extra-Dry Still:
Not a hit with anyone. We found it pallid by comparison to its companions, too acidic and, as one put it, "it would benefit from a spritz."
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