World of Ciders Tasting Class

Welcome to a guided tasting exploring traditional ciders of the Old World and a range of American  ciders. Let's get a quick history and geography lesson as we ground our cider palates in Old World traditions, learn a bit about the history of cider in America and then take a look at market segmentation in today's cider category. We'll wrap up by asking: "what is orchard-based cider?" and "does cider

Introduction 5 minutes

How to Taste Cider     10 minutes

Old World Ciders 15 minutes





New World Ciders 15 min

-Soda Cider

-Craft Beer Cider

-American Fine Cider

Orchard Based Ciders 15 min

- Kingston Black Cider

Q&A 15 min

Credit: World's Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw. Photo by Bill Bradshaw
Credit: World's Best Ciders by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw. Photo by Bill Bradshaw

How to Taste Cider

Trellised Dabinett tree at Eve's Cidery
Bottled cider at Eve's Cidery


How cider is like wine:

-a fruit crop that takes many years to establish

-expensive to grow and harvest

-perishable, harvest is once each year

-basically a white wine making process

-fruit characteristics change due to climate and soils

Pressing apples in a Rack and Cloth press
Click Here to Expand

How cider is different from wine:

-juice does not flow easily, ground into pommace and pressed at high pressure

-acid is primarily malic vs tartaric

-blonde beverage can/should have tannin.

-tannin is contained in the flesh rather than the skin. Influence over tannic qualities is obtained through blending different varieties rather than skin contact.

-cider is primarily not a single variety beverage

Strawberry can be a red fruit descriptor for cider.
Barnyard (also known as sheep in the orchard) cider descriptor.

Tasting cider like wine: apply your wine tasting skills with an open mind

-wine and cider start with hundreds of aroma compounds; finish with thousands, almost none of which are the same.

-how we taste cider (seriously) aroma, taste, mid-palate, finish

-like with grape wine, you are not looking for the cider to taste the a fresh apple. However many apple reminiscent aromas like apple blossoms, dried apples, etc. many wine aroma descriptors are interchangeable.

-look for a food friendly beverage that is lower in alcohol than wine, has nice tannic structure to support it and a long finish. Balance!

Old World Ciders

Map of Spain
Basque Orchard
Spanish Pour
At the cider house

Taste: Sagardo Aparduna "Sidra Espumosa", Basque, Spain

-The Oldest Region: Northern Spain. Basque and Asturias.

-Most likely the Celts were making cider pre Roman times.

-Spanish cider makers claim there is a record of cider being produced in 60BC

-Organized cider orchard and variety selection by the 12th century

-Asturians drink and average of 54 liter of cider per year, more than anywhere in the world.

-Siderias, tapas, seafood, mountains, the pour “toxt” cider release.

-Made from bittersharp varieties, have high volatile acidity content, are still, are meant to be poured at a height of 3 feet, are served in siderias. Picture stunning mountains by the sea, very steep orchards, and giant chestnut casks. Go to a local cider bar during “txotx” and drink cider with tapas made from local seafood and amazing cured meats.

Map of Normandy
Traditional Norman Orchard
Calvados Barrels
Normandy Cider

Taste Cider B: Manoir du Kinkiz, ""Cornouaille" Brittany, France.

-The Romance of Calvados and Cider: Normandy and Brittiney.

-Birth of cider dated to 13th century and the invention of the cider press.

-15th Century brought the import of Spanish cider varieties to Normandy.

-During the phylloxera outbreak, over a million people were employed in the cider industry and cider was poised to replace wine.

-Diversified farms with cider, calvados and cows. Creperies, costal climes, Normandy beaches.

-High tannin, low acid, made from bittersweet apples and pears, often has a barnyard component, usually somewhat sweet, made with a traditional technique called “keeving”.

-Picture diversified farms with huge 300 year old apple and pear trees under which cows graze. The farmers milk cows and make cider and calvados.

Questions: Barnyard-when is it interesting, when is it distracting? Where does the structure come from in this cider? Is it balanced?

Traditional Somerset Orchard
Ancient fermentation casks
A traditional agricultural beverage
Modern mechanized cider orchards in the UK
Massive tank farm at Bulmer's cider factory

Taste: Heck's, "Tremletts Bitter" Somerset, England 5.5%ABV

-A Divided Country: England. Somerset, Devon, and Herefordshire.

-17th century was a golden age, farm houses built with a cider cellar, the English “wine”

-Lord Scudamore perhaps invented the champagne method before the French…on cider

-Industrialization in the 50’s, cider makers went too cheap, water and chemicals.

-Still largest cider market in the world.

-Somerset, Hereforshire, Wassailing, pagans, standing stones.

-A range of ciders from industrial brands to rustic farmhouse producers. Traditional farmhouse ciders are either still or champagne method, made from bittersweets and bittersharps, often have a Brettanomyces characteristic, industrial ciders are pub drinks made in factories but with bittersweet apple concentrate.

-Picture huge trees with sheep grazing under them, ancient wooden cider presses and enormous old open top wood casks. Walk into any pub in England and you will find several ciders on tap.

Questions: What is the difference between Brett and BSA?

Traditional German cidermakers
300 year old cider pear trees in Austria
Austrian Cidermaker

-German and Austrian Cider: Saarland and Frankfurt in Germany, Mostviertel in Austria.

-Made from less tannic cider apples than their other European counterparts, are well balanced with lots of bright acidity.

-Go to a cider tavern in Frankfurt where cider is served in blue and grey stone ware and eat sour cheese with caraway seeds and raw onion.


New World Cider

New England cider pressing
Prohibition wiped out the American cider industry

-Colonial American Cider. Early European settlers consumed 300 gallons of cider per capita. Our cider orchard heritage can be found in remnants of rural cider mills, memories of Grandfathers barrel out back and the millions of apple trees both abandoned homestead orchards and escaped feral seedling that dot our northeast landscape.

-Thomas Jefferson made cider at Montecello. Johnny Apple Seed planted cider apples for the American Settlers.

- Prohibition wiped cider out and orchards never recovered. After legalization, beer became the favored drink.

Credit: Alan Shapiro
Credit: Alan Shapiro
Cider for food

Taste : Angry Orchard’s “Crisp Apple”, Boston Beer Company 6%ABV

-Market Confusion!  Cider was reintroduced to US consumers in the 90’s as a beer alternative.  Legally required to only have a minimum of 51% apples to be called cider. Made from world commodity concentrate, water, glucose syrup and flavorings. Responsible for rapid growth.  And massive advertising.

- Adding to the confusion, distribution issues surrounding the separation of wine and beer in NYS and labeling issues surrounding cider vs hard cider at TTB and FDA

Question: How do you feel tasting this and knowing this is the majority of cider consumed in USA?

Taste: Nine Pin Cider “Original”, Albany, New York, 6.7%ABV

-Craft beer inspired ciders made from juice of freshly pressed commercial dessert packing line culls, or even locally grown dessert and processing varieties.

-Sweetened with sugar or flavored with all adjuncts like raspberries, maple syrup and hops or an attempt is made to balance the flavor with grape tannin, malic acid and sugar or apple juice.

Taste : Farnum Hill “Extra Dry”, Lebanon, New Hampshire 7.5%ABV Esophus Spitzenburg, Wickson, Golden Russet, Dabinett, Chisel Jersey, Ellis Bitter

-Made from cider specific varieties.

-Grown for juice quality, not yields or cosmetics

-Made once each year at harvest

-Variations due to varietals, vintage and location

A Year in Orchard-based Cider

Kingston Black at Eve's Cidery
Cider fermentation tanks at Eve's Cidery
Blending cider at Eve's Cidery
Bottling the secondary fermentation
Pruning apple trees at Eve's Cidery
The Whip and Tongue Graft
Orchard in bloom in Van Etten, New York


Redbyrd Orchard Cider "Cloudsplitter" Burdett, New York

Eve's Cidery "Autumn's Gold" Van Etten, New York 7.5%ABV

Eve's Cidery "Essence" Van Etten, New York 10% ABV

Orchard work
Disgorging naturally sparkling cider
Corking by hand

A year in cider:


Thank You.

I hope you enjoyed this tasting and and feel inspired to continue to explore the world of cider. If you'd like to explore locally made ciders of the Finger Lakes, please come visit us at the Finger Lakes Cider House

And here's to the revival of American cider. Cheers!

-Autumn Stoscheck and Melissa Madden