Euskal Sagardoa is the newborn PDO for the Basque natural cider. It was created in 2017 and allows the use of about 115 local apple varieties grown in the Basque Autonomous Community. It certifies both quality and origin, and the first bottles labeled with it’s characteristic red brand were the result of the 2016 crop.
The creation of this common protected brand is a milestone in the Basque cider industry, unifying what it was formerly divided. Before the creation of this PDO, Basque cider producers were grouped in two currents, each with its own label. Eusko Label, depending of the Basque Government and mostly certifying the origin of apples, and Gorenak, whose main purpose is to set a quality standard.
Now, under the direction of Unai Agirre (2nd picture), both groups have come together in Euskal Sagardoa. So this is the situation you can nowadays find in the Basque cider market:
- ➡️ You can find natural cider without any label, except of the company’s, made with local varieties or imported.
- ➡️ Then there is the Gorenak ciders, with certified quality but allowed to be made both with local or foreign apples (it could be all local, mix, or all non-local).
- ➡️And finally the Euskal Sagardoa ciders, always natural, that must have been made with traced apples and have to overcome an organoleptic panel and lab analysis to fit the conditions and quality standard. It has a Premium category, with golden label, identifying highest quality ciders.
- ➡️Along with those options, there are also some ciders produced in the Basque provinces under French rule, as well as Navarre ciders or even those produced in Gipuzkoa with apples grown in the neighbouring province.
Apple orchards are being recovered in the Basque Country with new plantations as the result of the effort of the local public administrations, as well as the producers and the various associations. But the production of Basque cider is still bigger than what it can be made with local apples.
Even though Euskal Sagardoa doesn’t cover all the ciders produced in the Basque Country, neither all the cider made with local apples, the amount of cider made with locally grown apples is increasing.
In 2017, one of the most successful harvests remembered in times, 4 million liters were labeled with Euskal Sagardoa, and 80% of the whole cider production was made with local apples.
But in 2018 the crop in the Basque Country has been really small, unlike in the rest of Europe, and 40% of all the cider (around 10 million liters total) are expected to be made with local apples.
Having still a small margin, it depends of the harvest. And so it must be. But it is good to have a system that allows both the recovery of local apple trees and the survival of the industry.