Certification of origin and quality are requirements demanded more and more by consumers in foreign markets. Because of this and given the importance of counting on competitive advantages this allow us to be present and to grow in these markets, the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) “Cider of Asturias” becomes then necessary.
The Control Board is in charge of protecting the “Cider of Asturias” from illegal concurrence, imitations and any fraud that affects it, as well as promoting it. A Protected Designation of Origin is a legal term that is used for product differentiation and an agro-alimentary strategy that increases the yields and ads value to the different processes and products. This assures a more efficient distribution of the incomes between the different parts along the productive process.
The Protected Designation of Origin “Cider of Asturias” is a collective trademark which beneficiaries are the producers of apples and cider of Asturias that are put under the quality control imposed by the Control Board.
The Protected Designation of Origin ”Cider of Asturias” means a certain niche of market, a product and a certain quality. The supply of agro-alimentary products with PDO, like “Cider of Asturias”, increases the value of the products because they are of exclusive use to the members of the Control Board and they are accompanied by a quality certification issued by it.
It is an integral concept that is very important for the cider industry since it constitutes a valuable legal instrument for the development of an economy, and intends the collective promotion guaranteeing quality, origin and, in many cases, tradition and history of products that are the result of the intimate bond between human groups and the earth from where they come.
Physical characteristics of the production area of the PDO Cider of Asturias
The apple production and processing area of products covered by the Protected Designation of Origin "Cider of Asturias" corresponds to all municipalities of the Principality of Asturias.
Asturias is a geographical and historical region of northern Spain, which since 1982 is the single-province autonomous region of the Principality of Asturias with 10,565 km2, its capital in Oviedo, and comprising 78 municipalities (councils).
It is located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, between 4º30' and 7°11' longitude west and 42º53’ and 43º40' north, on the northern slopes of the Cantabrian Mountains occupying a narrow corridor of 15 to 80 km wide and 200 km long. Separated from the region of Cantabria to the east by the estuary of Tina Mayor and from Galicia to the west by the River Eo, it is limited to the north by the Cantabrian Sea (an area of the Bay of Biscay), while the Cantabrian Mountains to the south separate the region from Castilla and León.
Following the line of longitude, four areas can be distinguished in Asturias: the high peaks and valleys of the Cantabrian mountain range, the middle mountains furrowed by transverse valleys and the Oviedo basin that forms a transition to the coastal strip.
The apple orchards and ciderhouses are distributed in different parts of the protected region, covering the entire territory.
At the present time the Principality's surface area for cultivation of cider apple trees is 6,500 hectares, representing the total area dedicated to the production of cider and natural cider.
Localities outside the area indicated are not considered as covered by the PDO. Ciders obtained outside this production and processing area are likewise not covered.
As regards the production and processing area of ciders covered by the PDO, which comprises seventy-eight municipalities, it must be remembered that, while the defined geographical area is 10,560 km2, Asturias is one of the most mountainous regions in Europe, which greatly limits the useful agricultural area for this crop, which is located in the small valleys and on the slopes of all the defined territory (the 78 municipalities mentioned).
Together with the features of terrain and production of the Asturias region, this means that farms are scattered throughout all the municipalities to a greater or lesser extent, leading to small, disperse rural communities, as is also the case with the characteristics of farmsteads.
Traditional cultivation of cider apple trees in Asturias is part of an extensive mixed use of cider apple trees and natural pastures. Due to the large number of smallholdings in Asturian agriculture, the combination of livestock and cider apple production to a large extent defines the socioeconomic characteristics of rural Asturias. This combination provides additional income for the family farm, and also prevents rural exodus to some degree by generating an activity that cares for the environment and fixes the population.
As with the distribution of cider apple orchards, ciderhouses historically appear in the region as small facilities on farms where cider was produced for family consumption. Over time this practice has been abandoned and at present there are facilities distributed throughout the designated area that have become concentrated in areas close to infrastructures and with services best suited to industrial activity.
Moreover, despite the fact that the apple and cider sector does not have a Common Marketing Organisation, thus limiting the possibility of new plantations, an important development has been taking place in recent years (within the constraints of surface area) of new plantations and replacement of others. This has improved growing techniques and suitability of varieties and permits production of top quality cider apples for industrial processing of the raw material.
The Principality of Asturias has an oceanic climate, characterized by abundant rainfall throughout the year, moderate sunshine and a high rate of cloud cover.
Average annual rainfall in Asturias is closely related to its topography and ranges from 900 l/m2 (35 inches of rain) at some points along the coast to more than 2000 l/m2 (80 inches of rain) in the higher areas of the eastern mountains.
The latitude of Asturias, close to 45°, implies a strong seasonality in the amount of sunshine since the length of the day is very variable. Global sunshine reaches 1756 J/m2 per day in June, falling to 454 J/m2 per day in December.
As for temperature, due to the proximity of the sea, thermal fluctuation is less than for sunshine.
During the cold season, winds along the Asturian coast are mainly from the Southwest because the Azores anticyclone retreats to the South and allows a much more southern path for Atlantic storms. During the summer, the situation is very different; the development of the Azores anticyclone implies a more northerly path for storms, so they affect the Cantabrian coast moderately. During these months the prevailing winds are from the Northeast, cold and dry, bringing fresh, clear weather with no rain.
The physical relief of Asturias was configured at the end of the Palaeozoic era 250 million years ago and was shaped by land movements in the Tertiary period between 50 and 25 million years ago.
In general, the geography of Asturias consists of steep slopes located within the short distance between the coast and the watershed. These features of the terrain can be grouped into five well-defined areas.
An inland area in the west in the form of crests and north-south valleys, a second southern central area comprising a northern location consisting of the east-west coastal mountain ranges, and an eastern inland area consisting of mountain massifs and gorges that separate the coast and the Picos de Europa; completed by the two peripheral fringes, the shallow coastal plain caused by sea abrasion and the mountainous fringe and watershed that runs parallel to the coast.
Additionally, a generic asymmetry in the structural space of the region can be made, by differentiating a western area consisting of old siliceous materials (quartzite and slate) and an eastern area formed by modern calcareous materials.
Physical data worth noting concerning the region’s geography are the different levels of altitude and extension, between a minimum height of 0 m (sea level) and a maximum altitude of 2,648 m (Peak of Torre Cerreu), from which it follows that more than half of the region is above 400 meters and more than a quarter of over 800 m.
The soil is another differential element. Generally slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5) with high organic matter content and a tendency to be fairly balanced in nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium, these conditions mean that soil composition is well balanced and specific in mineral elements, which can help differentiate our raw material from that of other geographical areas. In some areas of Asturias there are calcareous soils, but generally they are fairly well watered producing only a slight increase in pH (7.0 to 7.5) and calcium content.
The combination of all these elements leads to particular organoleptic qualities of apple juices used traditionally in Asturias, which are characterized by a predominance of an acidic taste, with no very marked tart tastes, and sufficiently rich in sugars. Weather conditions with cloudy periods of low amounts of sunshine and occasional rain favour the sugar / acid ratio and excellent yield in extraction of juices.