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The Autumn Champagne
1. Understand the varieties. You may think cider's too sweet for your taste, but like Riesling, which suffers from a similar image problem, there are dry, "off-dry," and sweet styles. If you're new to the beverage, ask a salesperson to show you a "completely dry" or "extra-dry" option.
2. Don't spend too much. Most good ciders fall between $10 and $25.
3. Buy local, if you can. There are wonderful bottles produced on the West Coast, the Midwest, the East Coast, the Great Lakes region and New England. Two of Itkin's favorites come from New Hampshire (Farnum Hill) and Virginia (Foggy Ridge).
4. Pick up a few bottles. Cider's alcohol content ranges from 2% to 9%--much lower than wine, which is usually 13 or 14%--so you can have a couple of glasses and not feel too woozy.
5. Drink it with anything that you'd eat apples with. The obvious pairing is white meat, especially pork and turkey. Cider is wonderful with cheese, too, especially hard, nutty varieties like aged Asiago, Emmental, Comte or Grana Padano. The offbeat match we love, though, is donuts. The drink's bubbles will scrape excess grease off your tongue (and can you think of a better way to spend a fall afternoon than sipping cider and eating one of these?).
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