There is a big difference between tasting and drinking. Drinking is taking in liquid to quench thirst or for pleasure. Tasting is finding out as much as possible about the product we are trying, subjecting it to all our senses to determine its characteristics. It is an intellectual act requiring thought and reflection, and as such requires a certain degree of learning.
Tasting is both a skill and an art. It is a technique because there is a methodology to be learned and results to be expressed using appropriate specialized language. Art, because it is not an exact science, and each assessor uses his senses in a unique and personal way. Consequently, to enjoy a cider, to really taste it, a basic understanding of the art of tasting and the culture of cider is essential: how to observe it in the glass, smell it, pass it round the sensitive parts of the mouth in order to assess it and give an opinion on its style and quality.
The five senses are needed
Tasting calls on the five senses, for sight, hearing, smell, touch and above all taste are all necessary to carry out a proper tasting. Our feelings and perceptions reveal the role of the nervous system and especially the brain in their composition. The brain has the power of memory, without which tasting is impossible.
The memory can be visual, olfactory and gustatory.
From the visual point of view, the main aspect to be noted is the colour, and whether or not carbon dioxide is released, clarity, brightness, flow, etc.
From the olfactory point of view, quality and character of the aromas.
In the mouth, attention should be given to the four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, tart, and the interrelationship between them.
This test system may be valid, with minor variations, for both new expression and sparkling ciders. Traditional cider tasting differs from the above and not only because of being served in the glass.
Traditional poured cider tasting
When tasting newly high-poured cider, we must take into account a number of typical features. Visually, we must observe the espalme or frothing, the behaviour of the surface foam generated when pouring. It should disappear quickly and completely, leaving no rings or foam. We must also consider the aguante, i.e. the persistence of a smooth mass of bubbles that fills the entire volume of liquid and disappears slowly. The right aguante requires more or less prolonged persistence. Finally, we should observe the pegue or stickiness, i.e. foam adhesion to the glass walls in the form of small consistent particles.
As regards the nose, it is important to remember that these ciders tend to have a higher volatile acidity.
In the mouth, they have a characteristic acidic taste, accompanied by some tartness and very slight astringency, while a discreet sweetness that balances the whole is valued positively. It is therefore a dry product without residual sugar.