Thursday 30 September 2010

Naked Guide to Cider - Book Review

Book Review: Naked Guide to Cider by James Russell
ISBN 9781906477325 RRP £9.95

There is a shortage of cider books on the market, it does appear to be a much-neglected section of the drinks industry. Luckily James Russell has decided to dip his writing finger into the pomace and come out with ''The Naked Guide to Cider''. A compact 240 page book, the NG2C has a forward by industry stalwart John Thatcher followed by various chapters on the definition and history of cider and perry; a useful glossary of terms; a look at various cider-making regions; making cider; history and culture with, of course a mention of the Wurzels. Black and white photos break up the text together with two colour photo sections, one featuring the UK's oldest cidermaker, Frank Naish. In fact the book is interspaced with interviews with the famous names of the cidermaking world - Julian Temperley, Roger Wilkins, Andrew Gronnow etc.
An enjoyable guide to the cider bars of Bristol of Bristol is given, the book does tend to have a bit of Bristol centric view of the world of cider as the author lives there but that is only a minor complaint.
Some interesting facts emerge from the author who is clearly in love with his subject – Blakeney Red pears being used to dye army uniforms khaki for instance. I can vouch for their staining properties as have never managed to removed the stain of pear juice from one of my shirts despite repeated washing!
The book briefly touches on some of the more complicated techniques of cidermaking and mentions keeving, although without explaining what it is – you have to read a section further on to find that out and there is no index at the back. Saying that another book I have takes three pages to explain it so it is perhaps not the book to go into depth with detailed descriptions. The NG2C does however touch on the different rootstocks available, quite often overlooked in other books.
A useful glossary towards the end of the book provides a timeline of cider throughout history with an interesting anecdote that ''St Guenole of Brittany chastises himself by living on a diet of water and perry in 500 AD'', proving that fad diets are not a modern creation.
There are a few mistakes in the book – a well-known Welsh cidermaker has his name reversed and 'Blackthorn' is mistakenly written as 'Blacktorn' but these are minor faults in what is a well-researched book that even manages to quote the anthropological book, Frazer's Golden Bough. The book is not without its amusing side as well with a paragraph on 'How to make your own cider house' and a page of 'Scariest Cider Cocktails'.
All in all a good read and a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any cider enthusiast.

Thanks to Denis Gwatkin for lending me his copy of this book to review!

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