Apple Varieties at Eve’s Cidery

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Variety is a defining characteristic in cider.

We believe that the best ciders are made with cider specific varieties.

Like wine grapes, cider apples have the tannin, acid, sugar and aromatic precursors necessary to make a complex fermented beverage. Unlike wine grapes, these all of these characteristics are rarely contained within one variety.

Thus most ciders are blends.

NOTES:

  • This chart was developed at the Long Ashton Research Station in the UK. It’s a conceptual simplification, as there are many varieties that could be put in to several categories.
  • It should be noted that tannin is a broad category of polyphenolic compounds and that the organoleptic characteristics of individual tannins can range from silky and smooth to hard and bitter.
  • It should also be noted that I have revised this chart and replaced the “sweet” category with “aromatics” these are apples that we grow for their aroma contributions, not their lack of tannin or acid.
  • Unlike in Normandy, where the AOC determines which varieties can be used in cider, there is no single widely accepted definition of what constitutes a cider apple in the US. Our current working definition is a variety that is used intentionally for its assets to the fermentation rather than a variety you simply have a surplus of.
  • Read HERE to learn more about our ideas on how dessert apples can be grown for aromatics in cider.

APPLE VARIETIES WE GROW

We grow dozens of different varieties on our orchards. Some of them are varieties we have come to know as excellent. Some we have planted in small quantities to test on our cider and in cider. The following is an incomplete list:

Bittersweets
Bittersharps
Sharps
Aromatics
Dessert
Bittersweets
  • Ellis Bitter
  • Bulmer’s- Norman
  • Frequin Rouge
  • Somerset- Redstreak
  • Yarlington Mill
  • Chesel Jersey
  • Dabinett
  • Medaille d’Or
  • Villbarie
  • Bedan
  • Brown Snout
  • Binet Rouge
  • Major
Bittersharps
  • Kingston Black
  • Hereforshire-
  • Redstreak
  • Stembridge Cluster
  • Stoke Red
  • Porter’s Perfection
  • Fox Whelp Geneva
  • Geneva Crab
  • Krys
  • Collaos
Sharps
  • Bramleys Seedling
  • Brown’s Apple
  • Gold Rush
  • Wickson
  • Ashmead’s Kernal
  • Esophus- Sptizenburg
  • Caville Blanc
Aromatics
  • Golden Russet
  • Roxbury Russet
  • Spygold
  • Idared
  • Akane
  • Northern Spy
  • Virginia Crab
  • St. Edmund’s- Russet
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Cox Orange
  • Reinette Zabergau
Dessert

Dessert Apples we use in ice cider and sweet reserve cider:

  • Jonagold
  • Fuji
  • McIntosh
  • Empire
  • Macoun
  • Liberty
  • Melrose
  • Mutsu.

Pears we use in our perry: Brandy, Gin, Potomac, and wild seedling.

CIDER APPLE VARIETY FERMENTATION CHARACTERISTICS

In which we describe the cider making assets of varieties we use the most:

APPLES WE LOVE:

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Golden Russet. (aroma/richness)

This apple adds a very distinct set of aroma characteristics as well as beautiful richness. As a single variety it lacks structure, but we find at about 30%-50% of the blend the cider will retain the aromatics of Golden Russet, specifically ripe melon and stone fruit. Sometimes peach, unripe peach, white peach, ripe peach or sometimes apricot. In addition to stone fruit, GR (in our fermentations) has a distinctive beeswax/tar/petrol quality.

Northern Spy. Minerality (salt and shale)

We love NS for it’s minerality, however, this is definitely one of those apples that is fairly insipid when grown and harvested like dessert fruit in the wrong location. Our spy is specifically the original strain, not “red spy” which ferments very differently. It has a neutral sort of  fresh/unripe apple aroma when fermented, that verges into a salty/ shale austerity. Grown on our dry gravely ground, it has a refreshing acid- tannin component that is very much wet stone. We often use this as the last blending component…a blend that has the right structure and aromatics will often take on a new level of depth with 10% or 15% Northern Spy.

Bramley’s Seedling. (pure acid)

This apple adds no character as far as we can tell, and the acid is a fresh, bright acid…not “malic”

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Yarlington Mill. (femininity)

This apple adds soft, supple tannin to the structure of a cider which tends to make the cider more voluptuous and approachable. In addition it has lovely complementary aromatics like orchard floor, leather and smoke.

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Frequin Rouge. (concentrated BSA aromas, tannin)

This apple has incredible concentrated smokey/leather/orchard floor aromas plus soft tannic structure.

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Ellis Bitter. (firm tannin, orchard floor)

We think of this variety as an all-purpose, work horse bittersweet because it crops well for us on our site. It adds tannic structure and bittersweet characteristics (orchard floor, leather)

Kingston Black (tense springy tannin, mysterious and variable aromas)

The defining feature of Kinston Black is the quality of the tannin. A lively play between acid and tannin, the cider feels almost alive. The aromatic component is challenging, and can range from tobacco and wood through intense oxidized apple, but sometimes the cider can be aromatically neutral. We are still learning from this variety.

Porter’s Perfection (BSA, petrol, bright acid)

We are pretty excited about how this apple seems to express petrol and mineral characteristics on our Van Etten site. This apple also has BSA aromas as well as a bright fresh acid.

APPLES WE LIKE:

Stembridge Cluster, (good bittersharp, can exhibit petrol qualities)

This variety is excellent for cider, but difficult to grow. It is extremely biannual and prone to canker.

Dabinett (classic BSA aroma, firm dense tannin)

You really can’t go wrong with Dabinett. It’s got great aromatics of leather and orchard floor. The tannin is firm but not too bitter. This is a variety you can build tannic structure with.

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Bedan (soft French bittersweet tannins)

Ashmead’s Kernal (excellent acid, high brix, floral/spice aromatics)

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Idared (late acid, ripe red apple aromas)

Unusual in that its fresh aromas somehow carry through into fermentation. This variety works well to add a layer of sweet ripe red apple to the fruit in the nose of the cider carried on nice fresh acidity.

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Akane (early acid, ripe red apple aromas)

Like it’s later cousin Idared, Akane’s Jonathan parentage means red apple aromas plus good acidity.

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Virginia Crab (early acid, heirloom aromatics)

Chisel Jersey (BSA, intense tannins)

Wickson (pure, searing acid, high brix, plus a little bit of spice)

This apple is a great, complimentary source of acid. It’s very concentrated, allowing less to be used so the intensity of the main bittersweet or aromatic character is retained.

Binet Rouge (soft French bittersweet tannins)

Saint Edmund’s Russet (early heirloom aromatics)

APPLES TO BE CAUTIOUS WITH:

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Bulmer’s Norman

Can be unbearably bitter.

Crab apples

Crabs can add high sugar, acid and tannin but there is a particular “crabby” flavor that we have come to associate with crab apples as a class, and particularly wild and pollinator crabs. The flavor is a spectrum from canned corn to cherry pit/almond essence. At some level this adds interest, but we find it to be a sort of wild or foxy aroma/flavor that’s kind of skanky.

Wild apples

Wild (hedgerow, cow pasture) apples can have outrageous acid and tannin and potentially interesting aromas. Not all tannin is good tannin though, so care must be exercised to avoid harsh, bitter tannins. As a group, we find a recurring aroma trait that runs along a spectrum of ripe red cherry to acerola/children’s vitamin. We find the acerola flavors to be unappealing. Read more HERE about our thoughts on the wild apples of NYS…

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

Goldrush

This variety seemingly has good cider characteristics…high sugar and acid. However the acid can veer into a sweet tarts/ gummy worm acid out of a bag kind of flavor.

 

Golden Russets at Eve Cidery

McIntosh and it’s off spring (Liberty, Macoun, Empire, Cortland etc)

For some reason this class of apples we find tends towards butterscotch very easily, especially with warmer fermentations. A slow, wild ferment McIntosh can yield incredible aromatics of…very ripe McIntosh, a sort of estery apple aroma. The diacetyl flavors are not good. The estery flavors are what people identify as “apple”. It makes your cider taste like eating apples.