Cider traditions, history and manufacture vary around the globe, from the USA's original alcoholic drink to the growth of fruit flavours in many markets.

Gabe Cook - The Ciderologist

New Zealand & Australia

Ever since apples have been grown in New Zealand and Australia by European settlers, cider has been made.  But with the climate being suitable for making wine, and the enduring popularity of beer, cider was considered simply another fruit wine until recently, and did not have a great popularity.  

Following on from the growth of cider in Europe over the last 10 years, and with high quality fruit and expert winemaking knowledg, cider has massively increased in popularity.  The majority of products available are mainstream in style – consistent and easy to drink.  Fruit flavoured ciders are especially popular.

There has been an upsurge in craft cider prodcuers over the last 5 years.  By making the cider more slowly, using a range of apples, including English cider apple varieties and tapping into craft beer markets, these producers are starting to become a force.

UK

The biggest maker and cider consumer in the world.  The oldest tradition is in the West of England where varieties have been grown for centuries with the specific intention of making cider.  These apple varieties are characterised by having a quantity of tannin, like you would get in red wine.  This produces, a bold, complex cider.

The tradition in the East of England was to make cider from dessert apples, which were grown in the area for the London table market.  These ciders are lean and crisp.

Cider moved to a commercial proposition at the end of th 19th Century and a number of regional large scale cider makers emerged. Leading from the front were HP Bulmer of Hereford, who have gone on to become the world’s largest producer.

The volume of cider slowly grew during the 20th century, but its reputation as a ‘rough’ drink meant its appeal was limited.  In 2006, the UK experienced the ‘Magner’s effect’ – the release of the Irish brand, suggesting it be drunk over ice was an instant success.

This premium style cider, immediately imitated by other producers, appealed to a broad range of consumers: younger and older, male and female.  The benefit was felt throughout the industry with cider makers large and small seeing an increased interest in their products.

Flavoured cider, especially fruit flavours have become popular over the last 5 years.

France

The heartland for cider making in France is in Normandy and Brittany - in the North of the country and the area where grape vines don’t readily grow.  The tradition here is to use high tannin apples, much like in the UK.  In fact, the UK varieties were originally brought over from France from the Norman Conquest onwards.

The French style of cider, known ascidreis different to the English style. Employing the keeving method, they make a naturally sweet and sparkling product.  This cider is traditionally served with gallettes and drunk out of an earthenware bowl.

Today it is seen as a rustic, farmhouse drink outside of its region of production, and a poor cousin to wine, but it is starting to gain some traction in Paris.

Northern Spain

The regions of Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country have a long and illustrious cider making heritage.  One might be surprised to find cider in Spain, but a temperate Atlantic climate and Celtic roots along the North Coast mean thatsidrahas been made here for centuries.

These regions use very different apples from the UK and France.  Their traditional fruit is low in tannin, but high in acidity.  This produces a tart and sour cider, which is injected with some life by pouring it into a glass from a great height.  This normally results in sidra being spilt over the floor, so traditional cider houses floors are covered with sawdust.

USA

Cider was the USA’s original alcoholic drink.  The pilgrims brought apples with them and the simplicity of cider making and the abundance of fruit meant fermenting apples was the early settler’s preferred libation.

John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, was a prolific nurseryman and planted thousands of hectares of trees on the American Frontier.  These apples were unsuitable for eating and were turned into cider.  This had a practical purpose as well as a pleasurable one. The drinking water was of dubious quality and cider provided a safer alternative.

Thanks to German and other Central European settlers bringing beer to the USA and the Prohibition, cider fell away as a drink of popularity.  The word cider was appropriated to mean raw, unpasteurised juice.  To describe the fermented product, the termhard cideris still used today.

Over the last decade there has been a big resurgence in the interest of hard cider.  Spurred on by the craft beer revolution, and thanks to winemaking skills and an abundance of orchards, the number of cider makers has increased substantially.  Using a mix of common dessert apples, heritage varieties and UK/French cider apples, plus a multitude of other flavours and adjuncts, cider is predominantly made and sold in New England and the Pacific North West.

Take a look at The Ciderologist for more.