lunes, 4 de febrero de 2013

The asturian cider

Asturian cider

Asturies is a small nation in the north of the Iberian Peninsula that includes two main  historical territories known as the Asturies of Uviéu, represented by the Autonomous Community of Asturies, and the Asturies of Santiyana, now represented by the Autonomous Community of Cantabria. Other asturian counties are situated as well in the north of the castilian-leoneese community.

Population: 1.400.000 inhabitants (approx)
Extention:  15.000 Km²
Language: asturian. Under officialitation process and with partial legal recognition and protection status.

The first reports about cider in Asturies date around year 60 BC, made by Estrabon, who mentions that the asturians “zytho etiam utuntur, vini parum habent” (drink cider, thou wine scarcely have).

The first written document conserved reffering to apple trees is precisely the Fundational Act of the Asturies’ capital city, Uviéu, in the year 871, during the Kingdom of Asturies. The concreete mention of cider dates from year 780 at the foundation of Monastry of Oubona (Tinéu) where is included the duty of giving the servants “sicere si potest esse” (cider if possible).

Cider is no doubt the asturian national drink. Nowadays is considered that each asturian drinks an average of 45 litres of cider per year, number that in the case of Xixón (the biggest asturian city) reaches to 65. This makes asturians the most drinkers of cider in the whole world.

Cider is produced traditionally in all asturian territory with cider factories all over its land. 90 cider factories exists now, with an average production of 100 million litres of cider per year.

Likewise, there are apple tree plantations all over the country, considering that Asturies has more than 2.500 autochtonous varieties of apple, 515 of them are part of the germoplasma bank of the Asturian Service of Investigation and Food Developement (Serida).

Cider in Asturies is present in every social event, feasts, festivities and other particuar social parties where it is the main figure such as the amagüestos (sweet cider and roasted chestnuts), the sidraes (special gatherings for drinking cider) or the traditional espichas, ritual celebrations where participants meet together by the cider barrel for the opening and pouring from it with no limit, all going with complementary food, very typical as well.

Many different containers had been used for drinking cider, from horn cups (cuernes) to wooden jugs (zapiques) but the most propper were the clay pots (xarres) for cider. However, since the using of cider glass, of fine crystal, all other containers have been going out of use, being nowadays the big crystal glass of cider (vasu sidre) the container most associated with it, and becoming even more thin and producing also a trully engraving art on it.

We the asturians do not pour our cider right from the bottle to the glass, but we pour it up from quite a distance high from the glass, what we call escanciar, that is, we elevate an arm upwards with the bottle, and other arm down with the glass, pouring down a small cuantity of cider from the height to hit inside the glass brim. Cider has to be drink in one gulp and usually and right after it a tiny rest of it is thrown away down.

The art of pouring cider is considered fundamental for asturians, celebrating many competitions of up pouring all over the asturian nation as well as a National Championship of Cider Pouring.

All over the asturian land there are thousands of cider houses and bars specific for drinking cider, the chigres or cideries, with its own personality and rituals for the cider.

Otherwise, and from the mid XX century cider festivals had been becoming more usual over the Asturies, celebrating nowadays about 20 of them, whith a huge popular success. Among them has to be mentioned the Primer Sidre l’Añu (First Cider of the Year) for leading somehow the begining of the cider season.

The same can be said about the contests for testing the best cider, which are trully very crowded and popular and usually have two kind of jurys, one profesional and other from the public, voting the attendants for the best quality cider.

Champanged-cider. Thou natural cider is the most typical and the most consumed in Asturies, there are other types of cider, standing out the champaigned-cider, that we produce since 1857, at first for provinding the worldwide colonies of asturian emigrants mainly in the Americas, where it became popular and being produced today as much as 50 millions of litres per year.

Within this type of  champaigned ciders, lately takes more relevance the Sidra Brut, with outstanding brands of excellent quality today that smoothly succeed in the markets.

In the late years a new type of cider has been produced so-called “de nueva expresión” (new expression cider) that little by little is achieving its own place.

Cider brandy

Undoubtedly, in our country we also produce cider brandys of excellent quality, being remarkable that the first cider brandy with protected designation of origin at european level is asturian.

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