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Forget the Wine - Check Out the Spanish Cider Houses for a Unique Experience

Spain is famous for its wine.  The Rioja region is very well known for quality red wine, and Andalucía in the south is known for its sherry and delicious dry white wines, but in the Basque region of Spain, near San Sebastian, there is another beverage that is not as popular but just as delicious and that is their special alcoholic cider that has a tart, vinegary taste.  If you want a truly unique experience while you are in Spain, make sure you experience one of the quality ciders in these amazing Spanish cider houses.

All Natural Ciders

One of the things that make Spanish house cider unique is the “natural” taste which means it is still instead of being fizzy and carbonated.  The alcohol content of the cider is around 4% and it is made from a number of different apple varieties.  Harvesting the cider begins towards the end of September and continues through the middle of November.  In January, the process of extracting and fermenting the juice begins and at the middle of the month, the cider is ready for drinking.  In the Basque country, there are around 60 cider houses producing the drink, which is the largest in the country.  Most of these are close to San Sebastian, in the town of Astigarraga.

By visiting these cider houses you will be able to learn the importance of it in the Basque culture, where cider production has been a part of the culture for over 900 years.  The best time to visit if you want to taste these delicious drinks is during the annual tasting period.  This period starts in mid-January and lasts all the way through to April.  There are a lot of cider houses that are open for meals throughout the year, but during the tasting period you are able to sample the ciders directly from the barrel.  The meals on offer at these cider houses tend to be basic, such as a cod omelette as a starter, an entrée of beef or veal served with some locally grown veg and walnuts, cheese and honey for dessert.  However, it also includes as much cider as you can drink.  Make sure that you wear casual clothes however, as meals can get quite messy.  Especially since you are meant to hold your glass at knee level as it is poured from the barrel, since the long pour allows the cider to aerate which will enhance the flavour. 

Cider Houses

Outside of tasting season, you can still get both meals and cider from a cider house, but rather than getting your cider from the barrel it will be bottled.  One of the most famous cider houses is located on the outskirts of San Sebastian.  Called Barkaiztegi, this cider house has been producing cider since the 1600s!

If you don’t want an entire bottle of cider, or if you aren’t in the mood for the communal dining experience of a cider house, all is not lost.  There are still many bars and cafes in Basque country that offer cider for sale by the glass as well as by the bottle.  When you order by glass, make sure you watch and see how the barman will hold the bottle up over his head to make sure you get the long pour from the bottle. 

You won’t regret traveling to Basque country to experience this rich tradition of cider houses that exists to this day.  Truly, these are some of the most hidden gems in all of Spain.  Every cider house has its own personality, and once you experience it you will never be the same.

So next time you book your holidays in La Manga Club plan a few excursions to some of the cider houses – the experience will stay with you forever.

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