As the autumnal equinox draws near and once-green leaves begin to change color, it seems like the perfect time to explore hard cider. While boozy, apple-based beverages might seem like an all-American tradition, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, and beyond also have long traditions of cider production in unique regional styles.
Perhaps the most distinctive international style is the sidra of Basque Country in northern Spain. There, cider houses called sagardotegiak have produced naturally fermented, unfiltered ciders since the 11th century. Basque ciders are typically completely dry, with plentiful acidity and a hefty dose of funk. In France, apple-centric Normandy is a hub of cider production, with styles ranging from dry to sweet and everything in between.
Ready to toast the season? These seven European ciders will take you around the world without ever changing out of your cozy wool socks.
This traditional-styled Basque cider is a steal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s simple. It has intense, austere acidity and tart green apple flavors, along with a noticeable layer of barnyard and rustic earth. It’s an excellent food-pairing cider, and if you want to be authentic, pour it into the glass from a height to encourage the froth. Average price: $10
While technically bottled in the U.S., this Vermont-based cidery collaborates with a producer in Basque Country to naturally ferment this cider before transporting it to the States. It doesn’t have the effervescence of some ciders, but it has plenty of tart fruit and dusty earth in this unfiltered bottle. Average price: $17
This is a clean, elegant example of Normandy cider, with baked apple richness brightened by a hint of citrus. It’s more fruit-driven but balanced, with a definite frothy effervescence and a long, smooth finish. Average price: $15
An off-dry, super-drinkable cider with plenty of fruit and zing. Made by a former book sales representative from Paris, the “14 Glos” comes from apples planted in the Calvados area of Normandy. It’s layered without being too serious. Average price: $20
Former sommelier Eric Bordelet has become renowned for his elegant, biodynamic apple and pear ciders made from his family’s estate. This off-dry version is made from 20 different varieties of cider apples. Apples in honey and a touch of earth flavor the palate, but acidity and tannin balance it out. Average price: $14
While it’s made from pears, not apples, it deserves a spot on the autumn drinking lineup for one important reason: It’s freaking delicious. Clean, cool, crisp pear fruit meets refreshing acidity, making the wine off-dry but in balance. Forget about sharing; you’ll want to guzzle it through a straw. Average price: $14
Something about this cider just screams fall. Clean apple pie flavors are surrounded by a thick layer of earth and hay, slightly rustic but mostly comforting. Though the cider has some residual sugar, the finish is dry, with just a touch of bitter lemon seed to balance out the sweetness. Average price: $8