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8th February 2013

Cider emerges the victor in first Cider vs Wine contest


Cider & Wine champions square up before the match

Cider proved itself worthy of a place at the top table with a 4-1 win in the first Cider vs Wine food matching dinner held at The Thatchers Arms, near Colchester, on Saturday 2 February. The contest proved closer than the score suggests, with cider winning one match – the crucial Blythburgh Pork Belly dish – by just one vote.

Organised by Mitch Adams, landlord of The Thatchers Arms, and’s Susanna Forbes, wine was championed by Harpers Sommelier of the Year and River Café sommelier, Emily O’Hare, and Dan Probert, manager of Adnams’ Cellar & Kitchen store in Holt, Norfolk, while eighth-generation cider-maker, Aspall’s Henry Chevallier-Guild, joined with Beer Writer of the Year, and author of the forthcoming World’s Best Cider book, Pete Brown, to cheer for cider.

In Ready, Steady, Cook style, diners were asked to vote after each course, not on the drink itself, but on how well the drink went with the dish, with green cards for cider and red for wine.

For menu details and scores, see below.

After a welcome glass of Aspall’s Cuvée Chevallier and scene-setting introductions, each side described their choice for each course, and their rationale on the food-matching front. Following a win for the Spanish El Gaitero cider with the soup, wine broke back to win the fish course, with the aromatic breadth of Argentina’s Gouguenheim Torrontés matching both mackerel fillet and the punchy flavours of its accompanying green salsa.

The third course – the Blythburgh Pork Belly – proved the turning point. The Quinto do Crasto Tinto, a rich, multilayered Douro Valley red, was pitted against Herefordshire’s Henney’s Vintage, chosen for its depth and tannins. Cider won – just: 31: 30.

Illustrating how even a brilliant wine isn’t always the most popular match, Billecart Salmon’s Brut Rosé delighted all but failed to convince diners of its ability to match the Sour Cherry Cheesecake better than Aspall Imperial Cyder, despite both cider champions voting for the champagne themselves. Indeed, a number of diners felt this was an impossible situation, and voted for the cheesecake instead. The Imperial Cyder is based on an 80-year-old recipe from Henry’s grandfather, with depth coming from bittersweet apples and added moscovado sugar.

The cheese course provided the evening’s most popular food match: the Dragon Tree Blenheim Superb from Herefordshire’s Once Upon a Tree. One of the UK’s only ice ciders, a style the Canadians are better known for, it offered a rich, honeyed sweetness to match the local cheeses.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to host the first Cider vs Wine event,” said Mitch.  “While we were treated to some stunning wines from Adnams, there’s always something lovely about seeing the underdog triumph!” “I didn’t think we would win 4-1,” said Henry. “A few of the wines were knock-out wines. It’s not just about appreciating cider, it’s about changing perceptions.”

“Matching such tasty dishes was always going to be tricky,” said Susanna. “I’m thrilled that we managed to share the beauty and complexity of cider alongside top-drawer wines and champagne.”

“The food and drink was excellent, the company entertaining and the whole evening a resounding success,” said diner, Vivienne Maunder, editor of Flavours of Suffolk and Flavours of Norfolk. “Can’t say I agreed with the overall result – but there you go!”

“There has been talk of a rematch,” says Mitch, “and possibly even a beer vs wine vs cider event – we’d obviously love to host it again.”

Notes to Editors.
1      Further information & photos available from:
Susanna Forbes, 07811 913971,;
Mitch Adams, 01787 227460,,,  & our…
Wine & Cider Champions

2      Diners: we have the names and contact details of a number of diners who would be happy to talk about their experience. Please contact Susanna.
3       For a flavour of the tournament in real time, check out Storifyer,
4       The film produced by Ashley and Dominic, members of Offshoot Film’s Film Club, will be available soon. @OffshootFilms;
5       Winner of the CAMRA Colchester Rural Pub of the Year award for 2013, The Thatchers Arms won the Colchester CAMRA Pub of the Year gong in 2011 and 2012. It hosts a varied range of events, from book readings through to film screenings. Its next Food & Drink matching event will be a seven-course Beer & Food matched menu during its Beer Festival on 25 May 2013

Thanks are due to many for helping to make the night such a success, particularly Aspall for back-up and supplying the Cuvée Chevallier, Billecart-Salmon for donating its exquisite Brut Rosé, and Adnams, for their wholehearted support of the event.

Broccoli & Parmesan Soup with Homemade Chilli Foccaccia
17        Vallobera Rioja Blanco, Rueda, Spain; £7.99, Adnams
44        El Gaitero, Spain; £1.55 33cl;, Waitrose
Mackerel Fillet with a Fennel, Mint & Parsley Salsa & a Pont Neuf Potato
43        Gougenheim Torrentes 2011, Mendoza, Argentina; £6.99, Adnams
18        Aspall Premier Cru, Suffolk; £2.59/50cl; Aspall, Adnams, Waitrose
Slow Roast Blythburgh Pork Belly with a Homemade Duck, Pork & Sage Sausage & Tomato & Mixed Bean Cassoulet
30        Quinto do Crasto, Crasto Tinto 2010, Douro Valley, Portugal; £9.49; Adnams
31        Henney’s Vintage 2011, Herefordshire; £2.09/50cl;
Eddy’s Sour Cherry Cheesecake
21        Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV Champagne, France; £52.99; Berry Bros & Rudd, selected independents
32        Aspall Imperial Cyder, Suffolk; £3.08/50cl; Aspall,
5  Cheesecake; 3  Abstentions
Suffolk Gold & Binham Blue Cheeses with chutney & biscuits
3          Gonzales Byass ‘Vina AB’ Amontillado, Jerez, Spain; £13.59; Adnams
58        Once Upon a Tree Blenheim Superb 2011; Herefordshire; £16/37.5cl;
Once Upon a Tree