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What do cider and ... whaling have in common?

What do cider and ... whaling have in common?

The history of Zapiain Sagardoa cider mill, which comes from the Basque Country, began in ... the 16th century! It is from this period that the documents confirming the sale of the first apple orchard to this family come from.


Recently, their ciders, the result of centuries of improving recipes, have been available on the website of our e-shop.


And although it may seem a surprising fact, the increase in popularity and production of cider in the Basque Country was a direct consequence of ... the development of the pioneering Basque whaling industry. They set out on long journeys to such distant points on the map as Newfoundland, Norway and Iceland. 


In the darkness of the Middle Ages, water was practically nowhere to be considered a safe drink, as it often developed microorganisms that were dangerous to health. The wine, popular at that time, was intended for the ship's officers, and the sailors were left with cider, which they drank up to two liters during the day! It is said that due to its relatively high content of vitamin C, its consumption prevented fishermen from falling ill with diseases such as scurvy. The profitability of whaling has tempted many sailors, including members of the Zapiain family. 


During its heyday in the 16th century, cider became a way of investing in fishing companies. In return for supplying ships with it, investors received barrels of whale fat, which had many uses, but was mainly used as lighting fuel. Europe was therefore "illuminated" thanks to this raw material, and the Basques made great economic gains from it. 


The times of the industrial revolution were associated with the degradation of the environment, including the seas and oceans, and overexploitation of species led to a drastic decline in the quantity of whales. Therefore, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling entered into force in 1947, and by the mid-1960s all countries had withdrawn their fleets from the Antarctic areas. 


Zapiain Cydrownia, in the form in which it exists today, was established in 1961, when Roxario Zapiain decided to put aside the rest of the farm's activities (breeding and agriculture) to devote entirely to the production of cider. A few years later, Basque cider underwent a serious setback during which the Zapiain family accounted for half of the total production of the Basque Country. 


Undoubtedly, apples are the soul of this cider mill - they come from family orchards as well as from friendly producers. Apple varieties have been selected for centuries specifically to produce the finest sagardoa and are still used in the Zapiain Cider Mill. The special orography of this land, along with mountains, hills and steep slopes, makes apple cultivation a very tedious job, in which it is practically impossible to use agricultural machinery. 


It is a very demanding and done manually to this day - this is the so-called "heroic cider culture". The apples are harvested in early autumn, although the exact time depends on the state of ripeness of the fruit. In order to produce a high-quality product, it is essential that the apple is in optimal ripening condition. These data are obtained by various analyzes, such as a starch regression test or the use of a refractometer. The Zapiain Sagardoa bottle is the result of a large amount of knowledge accumulated not over the years, but over the centuries. To enjoy its taste to the fullest, it is best to serve it at  about 10-12ºC. Before opening the bottle, turn it upside down and shake it vigorously to dissolve the natural sediment and stumulate the natural carbon dioxide it contains.

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