On this page, we have attempted to define various terms – Real Cider, Perry, Scrumpy (Rough and Farmhouse Cider), Apple Wine and Sweet Cider & Hard Cider.
Real cider is essentially the fermented juice of the apple with nothing added and nothing taken away. At the moment the majority of the cider sold in the UK is mostly made from imported apple concentrate, is full of artificial colourings, sweeteners, and preservatives, is filtered, is pasteurised to render it inert and is kept and served under carbon dioxide pressure. Don’t assume that if it is served through a hand pump that it is real cider.
To protect traditional English varieties of cider and perry, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) set up a sub-group, the Apple and Pear Produce Liaison Executive (APPLE). APPLE publish the Good Cider Guide which lists pubs in Britain where real cider and perry are available. APPLE have defined two categories of real cider (and perry), anything which does not fall within these categories is not considered to be real cider (or perry).
Category ‘A’ Ciders
A definition agreed by APPLE to denote the very best of cider and perry, with nothing added or taken away. Category ‘A’ ciders covers the majority of cider makers but only a small proportion of the total amount of cider made.
Category A – must:
- not be pasteurised before or after fermentation
- not be filtered
- not receive enzyme treatment
- not contain preservatives or colouring
- not have the natural yeast replaced by a cultured yeast
- not have a nitrogen source added unless essential to start fermentation
- not be diluted
- only contain sweetners if labelled Medium or Sweet, and then only if they are shown to be safe and do not affect the taste
- be produced from only freshly-pressed fruit, and
- not contain concentrate
- not contain extraneous carbon dioxide
Category ‘B’ Ciders
A larger number of real ciders differ in some small respect from Category ‘A’ ciders but are sufficiently authentic to be designated real cider since the taste and character of the cider is unaffected. These are Category ‘B’ ciders.
Category B – must:
- not be entirely made from concentrate
- not contain extraneous carbon dioxide
Scrumpy, Rough and Farmhouse Cider
Scrumpy Cider, Farmhouse Cider and Rough Cider are terms often used to described certain types of real cider. It is one of those terms for which everyone has a definition and everyone’s definition is different. Originally it referred to cider which was made from windfalls (scrumps). For most people it means a rough, cloudy and unsophisticated cider. It is most often applied to young cider, i.e. that which is only a few months old and has yet to undergo the maturation phase (including the malo-lactic fermentation). For other people, including some cidermakers, it can mean the finest cider, from selected, better apples, slowly fermented and matured for longer than ordinary ciders.
When is it a cider and when an apple wine? This is a frequently asked question. There is no definitive answer to this. The best that can be said is that first of all apple wine falls outside of the definitions given above. Secondly, apple wine will almost always be made with dessert (sweet) apples. This materially affects the flavour of the finished drink. Cider apples contain high levels of tannins and significant amounts of malic acid. These are not found to significant levels in dessert apples. Therefore a cider has a sharpness (due to malic acid) and a bitterness (due to tannins) which is simply not found in apple wines. Commonly people will refer to the qualities that these components give to the cider as the “bite”. This is not apparent in apple wine. The final distinction is the alcohol content. Cider generally has an alcohol content which does not exceed (about) 8 percent by volume. Apple wines can commonly have higher alcohol contents. These wines will inevitably have been fermented using wine yeasts, not natural or ale yeasts, since only wine yeasts are tolerant to the high alcohol levels. The wine yeasts will impart their own flavour profile to the apple wine, moving it further away from a true cider. Note that in some countries the distinctions may be regulated by law on the basis of alcohol content alone.
Real Perry is made in a similar way to cider, but whereas cider is made from apples, perry is made from special varieties of pears. As with cider, inferior versions are only available in the majority of pubs – the current craze is to call it ‘pear cider’; real perry would never stoop so low! Real perry, like real cider, is an excellent drink and worth seeking out.
Sweet Cider & Hard Cider
North Americans use the term sweet cider to mean freshly-pressed apple juice, and hard cider to mean fermented apple juice (i.e. what in the UK would be termed cider). Perry is generally called pear cider in the US.