Cider with Penny

October 16, 2007

Weingut, ciderbesser

Edited highlights of Aachen for more… read the full version on my other blog.

And so, would I recommend Germany to other cider-loving vegetarians? Rather than simply “getting by” in a carnivorous country, I discovered that Germany has rather a lot to offer, particularly in May when the fields are splashed with strawberries, when the bakeries offer a delicious variety of cakes and breads including my favourite — to eat not to order — sonnenblumenkernbrot, and when the asparagus, or spargel as Germans call it, begins to be harvested. German asparagus is quite unlike ours. It’s white, slightly stringy but soft and with a texture almost more like a fruit than a vegetable. It is often served with just butter or potatoes, and many glasses of wine. The Rhineland produces some of the most exquisite wine I’ve ever tasted, from the raucous Weinstube taverns of Mainz to the gentle Weingut dotted in the fields around Trier.

And Germany harbours a dark, ciderous secret known as Apfelwein or Viez. It’s not on the menu, it arrives in big ceramic tankers, and it’s pronounced feets — possibly because it’s a mean feat to finish a glass, or perhaps just because it smells a bit like well-worn socks. I first discovered it in an al fresco restaurant on the banks of the Rhine in Trier, while eating some freshly caught fish.

Half-way through the tankard, it occurred to me that a) Viez is
stronger than ordinary cider and b) I was sufficiently tipsy to fancy a
trip to a nearby rock festival. Three Viez, five euros and ten minutes
later I arrived at Rock Total, which can only be described as the
Glastonbury festival’s long-lost poverty stricken cousin. Amid the
sticky tables, beer-soaked grass and everso cheery Germans — “Ja,
I want to be a Rock Star! Neine, Ich bin eine Rock Star!” — I was left
pondering gently if Charlemagne ever spilt Viez on his throne.

Fair cider tales

Once upon a time there was a young girl called Rosé. Who was beautiful. And liked to sleep a lot. At her christening, her fairy godmothers floated into the majestic hall where she was laying in a manger*, and conjured up three wonderful gifts for her. The first gift came in a glass. The glass contained a lovely golden liquid, dimpled with delicate bubbles. The first fairy godmother whispered above the sleeping babe, "I give you the gift of cider" and then fluttered off. The second gift came in a can. The can contained a lovely golden liquid, glistening like the eyes of a doleful donkey. The second fairy godmother whispered above the snoring lass, "I give you the gift of cider". And fluttered off. And the third fairy godmother came over and tucked a barrel containing lovely golden liquid, reeking like the innards of a welsh farmer at harvest time, in with the child, and said "never mind the first two presents love. This'll get you pissed in no time".

I am that child. Come and share the gifts of cider cider and cider with me, at my flat.

An apple a year…

… makes the doctor appear. Well, it's probably not that drastic but such is my obsession with getting my five-a-day that I fear it may just happen. I was merrily eating a granny smith when I was struck by the fact that we are SLAP BANG WALLOP in the middle of the apple season and, hence, the cider season — I presume, I'm not a horticulturalist (I'm not haughty full stop) — and so why oh why am I offered granny smiths and pink ladies instead of coxes? I can't really complain as the fruit is a freebie from work but still… I blame the supermarkets. Right, now, just because I have been away from this blog for a long eleven months, it doesn't mean that I haven't been involved in ciderous activities. In fact, it must be about a year since I went to my first cider (well, beer) festival, in Twickenham. I've been collecting umpteen cuttings, from publications as varied as the South West Trains magazine to the Financial Times, on all aspects of cider, following the decline of Magners (well, if you will set a precedent for charging £4.50 for a pint of something that's renowned for being cheap and nasty, that's your lookout) and even had my first cider-related post on a GU blog (although I'll be damned if I can find it again. The Guardian's search engine is a bit rubbish, and I had no idea that the newspaper refers to cider so extensively, albeit often in a derogatory way). But I haven't yet had the time and the inclination occurring in sync to enable me to add this info etc. to the blog. Oh for an online home… There have been two occasions of big cider-related fun this year. The first was the discovery of apfel wein, or viez, in Germany, and I'll post the relevant bit from my article about it below (or rather, above). The second was a cider with Rose (not sure how to do the accent) party, my inaugural party in Putney Towers, and, if I've still got it, I'll publish my daft musings from the invitation here as well. So there you go, 11 months of cider, but hey, we all need time to mature.