Apple cider

Autumn is the bite of a harvest apple. Christina Petrowsky

All hail the glorious apple.  Man’s relationship with this versatile and forbidden fruit goes back thousands of years.  Today, there are over 55 million tons of apples produced worldwide each year…now that’s some serious fanaticism.

I was tasked to bring in 6-8 new ciders for our restaurant and wine bar…shit, I thought, I know nothing about ciders.  In fact, I’d only drank the low-end, horrible stuff while living in England and NOT had good experiences.  But I went to work, and was stoked at what I found.  This is some serious stuff that deserves a taste and a look.

The history of hard apple cider is interesting.  Somewhere along the line, some ingenious soul stumbled upon the mysterious art of fermentation when they squashed a bushel of their orchard’s finest, left it outside (where natural yeasts went to work) and a few weeks later discovered a magical elixir.  Thus, cider was born.

Today, there are over a hundred different varieties of apples grown specifically to make cider; you could travel the world on a quest for different styles and endless incarnations and never come up with an empty glass.

Yates Cider Mill by Margaret M. Glinke

Yates Cider Mill by Margaret M. Glinke

Production, like that of wine, is relatively simple.  Once the apples are deemed mature, they are plucked from their tree houses and ground down into pomace. Historically, this was done using pressing stones with circular troughs, or by a “cider mill”, which was operated by hand, water wheels or by horse-power.

Today, they are most often run by electricity (not surprisingly, due to no more hours of clopping around in circles, the number of dizzy horses found roaming the farm has also decreased).

cider makingThe pomace is loaded into 10-12 layers, each separated by straw mats or wooden racks, and then subjected to intense pressure until all the fresh juices are squeezed out.

Fermentation is done at low temperatures to maintain the apple’s delicate aromas and after a three-month fermentation period, is ready to drink.  Most often though, they are further matured in vats for up to two or three years to allow the flavors to mature and develop.

Cider is produced worldwide, but like any other famous beverage, has its areas of true renown.  The Normandy region of France, the Basque country of Spain and the Northeastern United States have a long history with ciders.  Specific varieties of apples are meticulously grown, carefully blended, and sometimes augmented with fresh fruit to create a dizzying array of styles and complexity.

Now sit back, pour a glass and breathe in the Autumn air.  It’s cider time, people.



1.  Farnum Hill, Extra Dry Sparling, New Hampshire (750 ml)

Made from a blend of English, French and American cider apples.  Clean aromas and a bite of acidity that blends well with the carbonation; mouth-cleansing and food-ready.  Comparable to a crisp sparkling wine.

2.  Warwick Valley Winery, Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider, New York (650 ml)docs hard apple cider

Semi-dry and effervescent.  Crisp bite of acidity and a huge fruit-forwardness that manages to stay in balance while being huge in flavor, with a clean finish. (4.5% alc)

3.  Warwick Valley Winery, Doc’s Draft Framboise, New York (650 ml)

Fresh raspberries are added to the Hard Apple Cider and re-fermented for a spin on the traditional cider.  Big fresh hit of raspberry with a maintaining of the apple at the core.  Nicely balanced and refreshing.  (5.5% alc)

dupont cider4.  Etienne Dupont, Cidre Bouché Brut du Normandie, 2008, France (375 ml)

Made from 80% bitter-sweet apples (Mettais, Binet Rouge and Frequin) and 20% acid apples (Judaines and Petit Jaune).  Aromas of acidic apples, yeasty funk, citrus fruit and with a sustained, pleasurable complexity and a long finish.    (5% alc)


5. Bereziartua Sydre, Natural Apple Cider, Basque Region, Spain (750 ml)

Bereziartua_Sidra_CiderFounded in 1870, Bereziartua is a step back in time.  Unfiltered and slightly effervescent with aromas of peaches, oranges and yeast.  Tart apple flavor and a bit of funk on the nose that gives a distinct sense of terroir with a generous amount of minerality.   (6% alc)


2 Responses to “Ciders: How do you Like them Apples?”

  1. Jason Clarke says:

    Like you (before you wrote this) I have little experience with cider but this was illuminating, thanks. Now what did you do about the massive sugar/alcohol hangover from drinking all that cider?

  2. Well, Jason, I do what I normally do when I have a massive hangover:
    1) Drink a fish-bowl sized cup of coffee
    2) Head to Hot Bagel for an “everything” bagel (toasted), with two eggs, sausage and cheese.
    3) Scarf it down while watching bad tv.
    4) Consider a nap.
    5) Stretch and run for 15 minutes.
    6) In two hours, I am whole again.
    (or you could always just take a shot of Jameson, two advil and sleep for 5 more hours)

    In terms of residual sugar, a lot of the “better” ciders are fermented close to dry so they are not laden with excess amounts of sugar. As with any good wine or beer, the more sugar in the liquid, the more you need acid to balance it out. And trust me, these ciders have some great acid. In fact, true cider apples are practically inedible as they’re so chock full of tart, malic acid.

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