When I lived abroad, I fully submerged myself in the sub-culture of craft cider. Cloudy or clear, sparkling or still, fruity or floral – in Europe you can find a cider for every whim and taste. In South Africa, though, cider is synonymous with one or two commercial brands we grew up with. Can you imagine my excitement when I received a press-drop from De Grendel Wines, containing…yes, you guessed it, their own premium Three Spades Cider.
De Grendel toasts the arrival of autumn with the release of Three Spades Cider, acknowledging the Graaff family’s close connection to apple farming. The premium cider is made in limited quantities with freshly pressed apples from Elgin, one of South Africa’s foremost apple growing regions.
“Apples have been part of our country’s agricultural heritage for as long as growing grapes and wine-making,” says Sir De Villiers Graaff, owner of De Grendel wine farm. “It holds special significance for the Graaff family to honour both traditions.”
With four generations rooted in apples, it is a natural progression for the wine farm to produce a premium cider with the same dedication. The inspiration for the name and logo of the Three Spades cider comes from the family crest, a spade for each son of Sir De Villiers Graaff, fourth baronet of Cape Town.
Cider-making with its storied history is experiencing a new golden era, reckons Graaff. “The growing interest in small batch, carefully crafted cider reflects an appreciation for age-old traditions and artisan methods. This is spurred on by consumers seeking out products with provenance and integrity.” Read more here.
I find commercial ciders in South Africa sweet and tasting of everything but apples. Even the imported ones are syrupy and lack that fresh tang of crisp apple that you often find in small batch, craft ciders. Don’t get me wrong; these sweet ciders were synonymous with nostalgic summer holidays as a student, but I think my palate has long matured since those hazy days.
Now, I want something dry yet fresh; something tart and sparkly and a little bit mysterious. I want a cider that tastes and smells of ripe apples and that instantly transports me back to steaming mugs of spicy mulled apple cider savoured at Christmas markets in Winchester and Cologne.
De Grendel’s Three Spades cider lit me up from the inside. And yes, it may have conjured up sentimental memories of days gone by, but I also feel excited at the prospect of a re-awakening of craft cider production in South Africa. It’s not as if we have a lack of apples or talent.
What further excites me immensely, is the premium feel of the bottle. It looks gorgeous. It feels expensive and elegant. It turns cider into a girl’s drink, where large beer mugs of cider hardly ever was synonymous with a ladies’ night out. It begs for attention and will make a beautiful addition to a kitchen tea, a birthday party, an al-fresco dinner, a wedding reception. Deliciously dark glass, laced with gold detail – Three Spades is making an entry that is turning heads.
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestion: Oh, but this cider loves food, and food loves Three Spades equally! An all-year-round drink, you can dress this naughty apple drink up or down. I instinctively paired the cider with a light, fragrant and fruity chicken stirfry, ideal for those balmy autumn nights. The tropical notes of the pineapple picked up the fruity tartness in the cider beautifully, whilst the green flavours of bokchoi, sugarsnap peas and broccoli blended seamlessly with the refreshing tang of the apple. Add some wholewheat egg noodles and strips of free range chicken lovingly tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce, and this is a culinary journey of all senses.
I would also recommend pairing Three Spades cider with any marinated, spicy, sweet and sticky meat dishes, like ribs, pork chops or juicy lamb cuts. Dress it up by pairing it with a rich and creamy pasta dish or with a plate of gorgeously lush sushi – cider and seafood simply understand each other in ways we can only wish to one day experience.
Or serve Three Spades as an adult dessert to round of a perfect meal, coupled with warm cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, gooey maple syrup pancakes or warm apple pie with dollops of cream – basically any sweet that will pick up the caramelised apple and cinnamon notes.
Three Spades Cider makes me happy. Really, really intrinsically happy. So, if you’re looking for a drink to lap up the last of these blissful autumn days, this is it. Pure golden apple-pressed sunshine in a beautiful bottle. Thanks, De Grendel, for this very welcome addition!
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.