Riding through Austurias with the Vuelta Espana while Drinking Trabanco Cider
Tucked between Spain’s NW regions of Galicia and Basque Country, sits Asturias, home to an eternity of apple orchids. Dominating the economy here since the 18th century, apples have been used for remedies and cooking, and most importantly for the production of apple cider. Here, in the land of apple groves, the Vuelta España hosted Stages 14-16. On Saturday, Stage 14 snaked through the mountains and finished with a grueling 11% climb just south of Austurias; Stage 15 rode through Austurias and, with an evil 13% climb for the final 6.5km, was clearly the most punishing day of the race. On Monday the peloton had a well deserved day of rest (that hopefully included a few bottles of Trabanco Cosecha Propia), and yesterday, Stage 16 raced through the plains of Rioja. And while André Tamers of De Maison Selections most likely wasn’t hanging on to the peloton for dear life while originally touring the region, he did come home with some important cultural findings.
Established in 1925 by Emilio Trabanco, and built upon the family’s home brewing practice, the Trabanco cider house oversees all aspects of production, from the planting of orchards to the bottling and distribution. Beginning with apples that are mostly hand picked by family and friends, the fruit is then hand selected and pressed with traditional wood presses (along side the few stainless steel hydraulic presses have recently been added). “This is a very important family in Asturias,” says André, “the largest cider producer. All of their apples come from their own trees and they’re still working with wood. They’re historically important,” he added, “…still working with wood tanks and wood presses. They’re emblematic…and the 2010’s haven’t even arrived yet.”
The family’s 150 acres of apples equates to about 40,000 trees; and after the fruit has been washed, picked through, and milled, the apples are reduced to a pomace. Pressed and repressed for a total of four days, the result is then ready to ferment. Employing natural bacterias and yeasts, this process is temperature controlled and impurities are removed through a decanting of the cider a few times during a waning moon. Adhering to traditional methods, all cider spends half of its time fermenting in chestnut casks.
Trabanco produces two ciders, the first-Trabanco Cosecha Propia-is a traditional cider made from native apple varietals that are fermented with indigenous yeast to yield a cider that’s tart, low in alcohol, and without carbonation. The second, Poma Aurea, is made from a “selection of apples from the best orchards within the DOP.” Fermented in old barrels with indigenous yeast, the Poma Aurea undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle for six months, before being disgorged. Made in the methode champenoise, the Poma Aurea is yeasty on the nose and slightly dusty with an underlying tartness that is bone dry on the palate. There’s a marriage of minerality and light apple fruit that lingers clean on the finish without any hint of sweetness. Drink with light fare or without…it’s absolutely delicious.