appleNot wine this week but cider as October is when cider apples are at their ripest and are hand-picked, pressed and fermented into a fruity beverage that is a real alternative to wine.

It's the blend of natural bitter tasting tannins, sugars and the necessary balancing malic acid - the chemical ingredient that makes all apples taste fruity – which turn cider varieties like Redstreak and Crimson King into food-friendly drinks.

apples in a treeThe best ciders are made from a mix of Bittersharp, Sweet and Bittersweet varieties. Blend varieties with a bitter skin, low acid levels and a sweet bite and the result is a cider ranging in style from scrumpy to delicate appley aperitifs that taste similar to wine.

Light tasting entry-level ‘women-friendly’ ciders are replacing traditional fizzy ciders on the supermarket shelves. Using a high percentage of the low malic acid Sweet cider varieties makes a drink that tastes lightly of apples and lemons. The result is less like cider and more like a wine made with the white grape Pinot Grigio.

If you want a wine-like cider then Frome Valley Henney’s Dry (£2 Ocado). Alternatively you could just get a cider-like wine - Sainsbury's German wine Niersteiner Gutes Domtal's (£4.60) tastes of lemon, elderflowers and apple.

PG Cider Reviews

Expect to pay up to £4 for a bottle of premium bottled cider, but most are more reasonably priced in the £1.50 to £2.30 price bracket.

cider bottleAspall Organic Suffolk Cyder
£2 Tesco
Chewy and earthy with some gum-grabbing tannins but balanced.

Frome Valley Henney’s Dry
£2 Ocado, £2.09 Waitrose
Crisp and light.

Westons Premium Wyld Wood Organic Cider
£2 Waitrose
This Herefordshire blend of Bittersweet and Bittersharp varieties has been fermented and matured in oak vats. And you can taste it too. Creamy, oaky over-tones compliment the light apple flavours.

Aspall Draught Suffolk Cyder
£2 Ocado, Tesco
Fruity and dry.

Chaplin and Cork’s Somerset Reserve Cider
£2.29 Ocado
Rich and appley.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on

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wine bottlesFew of us have the ideal storage conditions for wine – a dark, damp, cool wine cellar. The nearest thing to a cellar in modern houses many can boast is the dusty gap under the floorboards where we are more likely to find an ants nest rather than bottles of wine. So if you have no cellar, where’s the best place to store your wines?

wine glass on headWhen I'm giving a wine talk there will inevitably be questions from the audience keen to understand more about the wine they've just bought on their last visit to the supermarket, or some question that's been niggling away waiting to be answered from someone who knows.