By Justin Taylor
The world of fermented fruit takes many shapes and forms. One fruit that is currently going through a local renaissance is the apple, through the production of hard cider and wine. The origins of hard apple cider and apple wine are the same, but in the glass we experience them in two very different ways. When recently asked to clarify the difference between the two I quickly realized, it is not all that clear it seems.
A well respected authority during my early years of study in viticulture (agriculture of grapes) once said “If your soil and climate can support an apple tree, you can grow a grapevine.” The world is full of historical examples to support this statement. Spain, France, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Argentina, all grow both apples and wine grapes in similar regions. Naturally as civilizations have done, fermenting fruit came second to eating it fresh. And for each style of wine that has been born out of grape varietals, there have been ciders that are as equally complex and varied from region to region.
The most widely understood style in my professional opinion would be that of cider, or hard cider as it is referred to in the United States. Hard cider is going to be moderate in ABV, lightly to fully carbonated, dry to medium sweet finish, and possibly fermented with small amounts of other fruits and spices. Apple wine however will have a higher ABV, no carbonation, dry to medium sweet, and the finish is very similar to that of Riesling or Chardonnay. The varietals of apples used for apple wine were the most concrete in defining a difference against apple cider. Generally, the table apples we see at the grocery store, such as Granny Smith and Fuji, produce great juice for the crafting of apple wine. The bittersweet and heritage varietals grown in smaller volumes, for example Orange Pippin and Dabinett, are a much better candidate for the production of hard cider.
The answer to the most recent Wine and Vine trivia is “American Viticultural Area”. Western North Carolina was the recent recipient of the Upper Hiawassee Highlands AVA, the youngest in the state. Trivia for next issue: What is the name of distilled cider from Normandy, France?