It’s been around for thousands of years and both human innovation and the passage of time have come together to transport the humble apple into a whole collection of fruit and flavour varietals that is currently the new frontier of Cider. If you’re new to the world of Cider, strap in – you’re about to ride the taste highway!
With cider enjoying a new level of consumption in Australia, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the many various styles and types. Like its counterparts in wine and beer, cider is not defined by one style and comes in many different forms and flavours. With the perceived health benefits of apple cider, it is no wonder the über-health conscious shopper is being constantly bombarded with new cider products. But how do you choose the right cider?
To start at the beginning, Cider is by definition a beverage made of fruit, more specifically it is a fruit wine produced from Apple or the softer variation of Pear (sometimes known as Perry). A better analogy is to declare that when it comes to this deliciously thirst-quenching drink, Apple is to Cider, what Grape is to wine.
Now great tasting cider producers know the secret to producing delicious Cider is to use good quality apples and a pretty basic formula to create ensues: premium quality apples with the correct balance of flavour, tannin, sugar and acidity are essential. And while it is possible to make cider from virtually any type of apple variety, cider houses have long used particular types of apples for best results. There are generally four varieties of apple classes used in cider and these include Sweet (low acid, low tannin), Bittersweet (low acid, high tannin), Sharp (high acid, low tannin) and Bittersharp (high acid, high tannin). Many European cider houses produce cider comprised of mainly bittersweet varieties, but it is now more common for craft producers to blend different varieties of apple to accord with more harmonious and popular tastes.
The majority of ciders are made from dessert apples but more-and-more often, producers are expanding their apple inclusion to slightly rarer varieties which contain a myriad of flavour and complex tannins.
Once apples are juiced, the practise of fermentation is different depending on the economies of scale that cider producers bring to market, the smaller scaled ‘Artisanal’ method often involves rustic, hand-picked, cheesecloth and traditional juicing methodologies. Larger scale produces may use ‘Commercially’ driven techniques that include intenser farmed, large scale, machine-picked and mass fermenting via sulphur, filtration and carbonation. Each method has one common denominator though; the use of apples and a fermentation process to turn sweet sugars into alcohol. Fermentation can take up to 3 months to complete, but sometimes it is matured in vats for over three years and then bottled to bring to market.
While Apple Cider and Pear Perry are thousands of years popular, it is the introduction of flavoured ciders that are fast becoming the beverage-du-jour! The popularity of these new brews have exploded onto the market very quickly. Consumers are spoilt for choice with fruit flavourings like peach, mango, elderflower, mixed fruits and strawberry mixed with lime. Being made mostly to a recipe, the alcohol content is usually always in the 4% to 5% range – making them a low-alcohol choice over traditional wines (ideal when one is wearing the designated drivers hat). Taste wise, the new flavoured ciders range from overly, to semi and medium sweet, and given the choice of style these lightly carbonated and somewhat refreshing ciders are the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday picnic or a BBQ with friends.