What is…? (FAQs)
WHAT IS CIDER?
At its broadest, cider is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples.
Whilst this is true, it doesn’t really provide the whole picture because, unlike wine, there are no global standards for what goes into a cider.
So, it’s possible that the cider you buy in the UK, whilst saying it’s a ‘British cider’, for example, is actually made from apple concentrate from the other side of the world (China is a major source)! In fact, up to 65% of your so-called British cider consists of added water, colourings, sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives.
The consumer has every right to be confused. Miffed too, given that they may have thought they were buying a product made only from apples of clear origin.
Yet there are cidermakers around the world who make their ciders from 100% freshly pressed and fermented apple juice and who follow globally accepted grape winemaking rules and regulations.
These ciders are wines by any other name, each redolent of ‘terroir’, to use a winemaker’s term, the fruit varieties used, and the vintage. Unlike mass market ciders, where production is continuous, they are made just once a year – not manufactured – and are a straight reflection of the skill and passion of the maker.
The antithesis of homogenised, mass market products, these are ciders that have the ability to surprise and delight and rightly deserve a place alongside wines made from grapes.
WHAT IS PERRY?
Perry is an alcoholic drink made from pressing pears and fermenting the juice with the help of natural yeasts.
It has an illustrious history and has been made in England for centuries, most particularly in the west. Other places with a history of perry-making are to be found in South Wales, and Normandy and Anjou, in France. Unsurprisingly, it’s also to be found in those countries with close historic ties to Britain, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
As with cider, there are no global standards for what constitutes a ‘perry’ and Cider Is Wine champions perries (ciders and fruit wines, too) made only from 100% freshly pressed and fermented juice without the use of any concentrates – in short, made not manufactured.
Like with the apples used in cider, the pears used in making perry tend to be rather sour, bitter, hard, fibrous and small – and you certainly wouldn’t want to eat one – but through the skill of the makers you are rewarded with a delightful, more floral and lighter-in-colour drink than cider.
WHAT IS KEEVING?
The process of keeving is unique to cider- and perry-making. It’s essentially an artisan, smaller scale, and time-consuming process but, at its simplest, it involves the maker arresting the process of fermentation before all the fruit sugars have been turned into alcohol.
The result is wonderful tasting, naturally-sweetened, deeper coloured, lower-in-alcohol products, with more pronounced, fruit-driven flavour profiles.
The alchemy happens through allowing the formation of a brown coloured, pectin-rich, jelly-like substance to float to the top of the vessel in which the fermentation is taking place – the so-called ‘chapeau brun’ (brown hat). The pectin comes from the skins of the fruits, and the fermentation tanks are usually translucent so the cap can be observed and the process controlled. This jelly cap seals off the top of the vessel, cutting off the essential nutrients the fermentation process needs to continue, so producing what is a characteristic fruit-driven, deeper in colour, lower-in-alcohol product (as little as 3% ABV).
Whilst never as totally ‘dry’ as other ciders and perries, the taste profile of keeved products does run from off-dry, to medium, to sweet.
WHAT IS ICE CIDER?
What we call ‘ice cider’ is a cider made from the apple-equivalent of the grapes used to produce ice wine.
It’s made either from fermenting the juice of apples that have been frozen whole, which reduces their water content ‘at source’, or from freshly-pressed apple juice that’s been frozen and then de-frosted. This process separates out the water content of the juice, which allows the water to be discarded, leaving the flavoursome, concentrated liquid to be fermented. Unsurprisingly, ice cider requires around four or five times as many apples as are needed to produce the same quantity of regular cider.
Ice cider was originally created in Quebec, in Canada, using the region’s naturally freezing winter temperatures. The area of production has now been expanded to other regions and countries, such as the USA and Europe where apples grow and the country enjoys a similar climate to Canada’s with temperatures falling to -20℃, and below.
We call ice ciders made in this way ‘naturally cold’ to differentiate them from ice ciders made by artificial freezing, a means of production that allows warmer climates to make some excellent ice ciders (and, indeed, perries from pears), these, we describe as being made ‘by other means’.
What about taste? What differentiates ice ciders from ice wines in general terms is the presence of, and balance with, acidity so you get descriptions like: “The acidity holds throughout, providing a delicate balance with the sweetness balanced by a juicy and tart long structured finish”… “The palate has concentrated flavours of apple, apricot, honey and spiced orange”… “Intensely sweet, but perfectly balancing acidity to give a refreshing finish”.
WHAT GIVES CIDER ITS FIZZ?
Ciders can be either still or sparkling and the methods used to make that sparkle each create a different style of drink.
TRADITIONAL METHOD: The so-called ‘méthode traditionelle’ process to make a sparkling cider, perry or fruit wine is the same as that used for making a sparkling grape wine (indeed, just like for Champagne) and starts when a mixture of yeast and sugar is added to the (already fermented) product in a closed (in-bottle) environment. This creates a secondary fermentation and the carbon dioxide that’s released by the yeast stays in the bottle and creates the fizz.
TANK METHOD: Rather than creating a secondary fermentation in individual bottles, the cider, perry or fruit wine, together with sugar and yeast, is added to a sealed / pressurised tank where the secondary fermentation takes place in bulk. When the yeast is used up, or the maker stops the fermentation process by cooling the holding tank, the result is a more youthful, cleaner, fruit-driven and aromatic beverage that makes for easy-drinking.
TRANSFER METHOD: A hybrid method borrowing from both the ‘traditional’ and ‘tank’ methods: the original secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle, which is then emptied into pressurised tanks with the sediment being filtered out before being transferred into new bottles (not necessarily the ‘standard’ 75cl size, but also smaller and larger bottles).
CONTINUOUS METHOD: In this process, the juice containing both sugar and yeast is continuously added to the base fermented juice whilst being pumped through a series of pressurised tanks, some of which may contain oak chips or shavings. This enhances the flavours at the same time as helping clarify the sparkling cider, perry or fruit wine.
ANCESTRAL METHOD / PÉT NAT: The already-fermenting cider, perry or fruit wine is transferred from tank to bottle before the first fermentation is complete. Sealed in its bottle, it finishes fermenting, so creating the sparkle. Some makers rebottle after fermentation is complete, but many do not, which results in a cloudy product.
CARBONATION: As the name suggests, this process involves injecting carbon dioxide into the finished product, so creating an ‘artificial’ sparkle.