What to Look for in a Real Cider – Vol. 1, No. 3

• Flavor Profiles and What to Look For
• Tasting Suggestions

On my recent visit to Farnum Hill cidery I was impressed by the palate skills of my hosts, and of course, by their very fine ciders. Cider doesn’t seem to have the established organoleptic terms of art that wine has developed – maybe that’s why cider seems less snooty.

“Do you have a word for that pippy-stemmy thing that reminds you of the apple seed?” The group bandied it about. “Green wood,” they posited. Jess told us in the refrigerated bin barn, “Alright, take a bite of that,” pointing to a bin of kiwi-sized apples. The raised eyebrow meant we were in for a shocking experience. “Chocolate!” I blurted out before the tannins took hold causing me to spit out the rest. LouLou called it “free association” tasting – one just says what comes to mind. (I will abstain from some of the terms I heard, though not in reference to the ciders we tasted there!)

I spoke with Corrie Martin, cider advocate extraordinaire, about this. She knows there is a lack of consumer education. Education leads to consumer appreciation, and that in turn, leads to more informed purchasing and demand. Again, I can’t help but to think back on the beer or wine industries, and how they once had the same hurdle to overcome with American consumers.

As a starting point, following are suggestions of favorable and not so favorable traits of real ciders. If you would like to undertake a group tasting, suggestions for real ciders and some simple tasting protocols are also listed. Enjoy. TPJ

Favorable Traits in Real Cider
• Varietal characteristics of the fresh apple expressed with vitality
• Fruitiness (can be stone fruit, berries, melon, banana, pineapple)
• Floral qualities (lilac, rose, fruit blossoms)
• Spicy or savory notes (cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, farm terroir)
• Tannin structure and fruity acidity

Undesirable Traits
• Overly green apple or green apple candy flavors
• Vegetative notes of crucifers (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) or squash
• Oxidized (‘reductive’) flavors, such as caramel, wood, leather, although trace amounts may add complexity; new oak barrels may overwhelm a cider and introduce excessive vanillin and oak flavor
• Dull or lifeless cider – even still ciders should have acid zing and aromatic qualities

Suggestions for Cider Tastings
• Taste still ciders before sparkling ones
• A white wine glass is good for nosing and warming
• Rinse your glass with a bit of the next cider first
• Swallowing allows you to judge late palate sensations and whether the acidity agrees with the stomach
• Tasting with cheese may assist in judging the acidity
• Cider can be great with food – explore the possibilities and watch for cuisine à le cidre recipes on this site.

Better Ciders for Your Gathering
Farnum Hill, Lebanon, NH
NH, ME, VT, MA, NY, possibly OR, IL
Wandering Aengus, Salem, OR
Black Star Farms Winery, Suttons Bay, MI
online ordering available to some states
Bellweather Cider, Trumansburg, NY
online ordering available to some states
West County Cider, Colrain, MA
• If you’re lacking enough bottles, throw in a couple of imports for comparison:
Domaine Dupont or others from Normandy region, France
Samuel Smith’s Organic or others from England


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