By Kim Kelly
Virginia is for lovers and there are many things to love in addition to each other! I think it’s safe to say Hard Cider is at the top of the list of things to love for many folks. Since 2012, when the Virginia General Assembly passed Bill HJ105 designating the full week before Thanksgiving as Virginia Cider Week, it has been going strong. In fact, Virginia was the first state to declare a week-long celebration and this year Virginia Cider Week is November 10 – November 19.
First a little history from the website ciderweekva.com, “In colonial America, fermented cider was the drink of choice. John Adams attributed his health and long life to a tankard of cider before breakfast. Thomas Jefferson’s champagne-like cider, made with Hewe’s Crabapples, was his “table drink”. Throughout the 19th century, growing apples and crafting cider from cider apples was an integral part of every community. Many factors contributed to the decline of cider in the US—the Industrial Revolution caused a decline in farms; immigration patterns changed and more beer drinkers arrived in the US; Prohibition dealt the last blow and most cider orchards declined or were destroyed. Many Virginia cidermakers aim to revive the cider tradition by growing, or encouraging others to grow cider apples, and by crafting fine cider.” Judging by the sheer number of Virginia cider producers operating today, it appears the industry is right on target in their quest to revive the tradition. Some of the latest sales numbers are pretty impressive too. According to the Virginia Wine Marketing Office, in 2015 state cider sales saw a 200 percent spike over 2014. That equates to over 496,000 cases of Virginia cider sold.
If you haven’t tried a hard card lately, this is a great time to experience some of Virginia’s finest locally grown and produced. Just like wine, cider is fermented juice and cider styles can vary from bone dry to sweet as in dessert; some are still and some sparkling. The styles and flavors can also be as complex and thought provoking as wine. While it’s no surprise that apple flavors come through, you might be surprised to find notes of citrus, herbs, flowers, even mushroom depending upon the style. On many restaurant wine lists cider is a nice alternative to traditional sparkling wines. So instead of ordering your usual Prosecco or Cava, you might consider a sparkling cider instead. Not only is it crisp and refreshing, but cider is very food friendly. There’s a style to fit any flavor from rich and salty, to spicy, smoky or sweet. It’s a perfect addition to most any holiday meal and gathering.
During Cider Week many local producers, restaurants and retailers are hosting events highlighting the industry, it’ an ideal time to visit, taste and learn from the best. Cheers!