We try to keep up on brand lines and trends, including internationally, for drinks other than beer and whisky. Cider is one, a drink we enjoy occasionally.
Ontario has a fine selection of craft cider these days. I could get into ciders more, but after all there is only so much time and budget, not to mention the need to rein in alcohol to a reasonable limit.
One brand that got our attention in Britain recently is Taurus Original Cider. It is a store brand of Aldi, the German-owned discount supermarket empire. Aldi, an acronym for Albrecht Discount, is a saga unto itself, maybe for another time.
I looked for an Aldi near Hammersmith/Shepherd’s Bush but couldn’t find one on my recent trip to London. I must have seen an ad in a newspaper or flyer, possibly on my earlier trip this year.
It becomes second nature coming across new brands to check their origin – but I couldn’t find the answer for Taurus, and still can’t. The Aldi listings state that a blend of apples is used, which doesn’t say much. To be sure, the labels state “Made in Devon”, but this doesn’t mean the apples in the drink are grown there, necessarily.
This list of Devon cider producers states that some use local Devon varieties, but clearly not all do, or for all the apples in the blends.
Some listings and reviews describe the origin as “unknown”, or “provenance unknown“. The labels seem to have a styling reminiscent of Strongbow, so one wonders if that brand might supply juice or concentrate for fermentation in Devon into Taurus cider, partly anyway.
Strongbow is produced by Bulmer, an old concern in Heredfordshire in west-central England, another cider region. Heineken has owned the company for some years now. Apparently most of the apples in Strongbow are sourced from local orchards.
Some reviews of Taurus, which includes pear and “dark fruit” iterations, liken it to Strongbow but note it is drier or more tart. In general the reviews are quite positive and consider the drink excellent value, in keeping with Aldi’s reputation as a quality, discount supplier.
Cider in Britain today must be composed of at least 35% apples, juice or concentrated form. A lot, especially at the lower end, uses juice or concentrate from various European countries, so Taurus might be made from those apples, in whole or part again.
Thinking about the name Taurus though, I wonder if it offers a clue to possible origins. Everyone knows the name is a zodiac sign from astrology, and the bull, shown on the label, is the symbol. So perhaps it’s nothing more than that, the idea of the bull suggesting a sturdy or potent drink.
Yet Taurus is not particularly strong, 5.3% abv. It’s not akin to the cheaper, so-called white ciders, White Ace and that sort said to appeal to those wanting blotto fast for the least money. The “whites” are usually stronger, around 7% abv and often sold in PET for bulk imbibing.
Could Taurus be a slight re-working of the name Taunus? Taunus is a mountain area in Hesse in Germany, a state with a noted cider tradition. Aldi is a German business, after all. Maybe the apples or a defining part come from there. Possibly the cider is German-made and shipped in although this might be inconsistent with “Made in Devon”.
What else? Taurus is also the name of a mountain region in southern Turkey. In that area, the Gömbe valley has famous and prolific apple orchards.
But Turkey is not known as a sizeable apple exporter and I doubt produces cider commercially. I checked lists of world apple products exporters, and Turkey does not figure even in the top 15. Still, I don’t rule out a Turkish connection.
Are these other connotations just coincidence? Quite possibly, but I’m still not sure.
I leave you with this culturally-rich rumination on European ciders from New York’s The Sun in 1907. One hesitates to correct such a source, but I think they got their German geography wrong. The Taunus hills are in Hesse, central Germany, not in old Prussia.
Sachsenhausen, also mentioned in the account for cider quality, has more than one situs in Germany. There is one in Hesse (the Frankfurt district) but also Oranienburg in Brandenburg, north of Berlin, part of historic Prussia, see here.
Oranienburg was noted for apples too. I’ve tracked down at least one surviving drink, a cider mulled with cream. So I think Prussia was involved in the cider tradition, but not via the Taunus hills.