I sit here drinking a bottle of Westons Vintage, and considering – for the fourth or fifth time – the budget. For those of you who don’t know, cider was recently picked out for a 10% increase in tax. Cue national uproar, stretching from the Wurzels to Facebook. I have no political qualm with this decision, so far it hasn’t affected me (though the vast majority of alcoholic beverages I’ve consumed since it came into effect are in fact cider).
My issue is the feeling of being targeted, picked out. I’m hardly a loyal cider drinker: I’ve wandered far, into the wild torrents of Wine, the soft embrace of lager… cocktail’s shameful puddles. But nevertheless, I’ve stayed true to cider, in various forms, since that first underage taste of Strongbow.
And that’s the thing: it comes in a variety of forms. I can’t help but feel grouped in with the drinkers of … shudder … White Lightning and Frosty Jack’s. The difference is not just one of snobbishness or taste (though that’s in the mix), it’s of entirely different uses.
Cider can be luxuriated in – I instantly think of my Westons (sadly emptied now). This is the mid-range red wine of ciders. The taste takes a little getting used to: thin and appley if I was being unkind; sharp and refreshing to the trained tongue. Okay, I concede, it has an ABV of 8.2%, putting it above Frosty’s level, even. I’d even accept a tax that specifically targeted your high-alcohol-level beverages…
I just think this increase shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how broad a category ‘cider’ is – your fine Thatchers and Westons are a mile away from Frosty Jack’s, but they’re equally as far away from your flavoured Kopparbergs sweet syrup, or the Magners and Bulmers pretenders to the throne, as all revolve around Strongbow in the public imagination. All types are acceptable, in the right situation; it’s just nice to give them some recognition, and recognise that they’re separate. Cider is a loose word, let’s not see it become a dirty one.