A is for Apples (obviously). The humble apple is the raw material for this wonderful drink. Varied in shape & size, colour, aroma and flavour, there are over 150 cultivars specifically grown for cider making in the UK alone.
B is for Brettanomyces. Hated by winemakers, but in small concentrations, Bret is an important contributor to the complexity of English and French ciders. Its actions upon the polyphenols within the cider help to produce aromas of cloves, leather and hay barns.
C is for Champenoise Method (aka the English Method). In 1632, Christopher Merret, an eminent British scientist delivered a paper to the Royal Society detailing his experiments of maturing cider in strengthened bottles. This caused the cider to develop a sparkle and improve its keeping qualities. This was a full 6 years before Champagne pioneer Dom Perignon was even born!
D is for Devon Colic. Many inhabitants of the cider- producing County of Devon, in the South West of England, developed severe abdominal pains in the 17th and 18th centuries without any understandable cause. In many instances, the outcome was fatal. The cause was pin-pointed in the 1760s as lead poisoning through cider drinking, the lead being used on cider presses.
E is for Endeavour. Captain Cook took cider on his long voyages aboard HMS Endeavour to keep scurvy at bay amongst the crew, as cider contains a surprisingly high vitamin C content.
F is for Fermentation. The magical process of natural fruit sugars being converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the action of yeasts. Depending on the style of cider this process make take weeks or months.
G is for Grafting. In order to pass on the genetic material from a specific apple variety, one cannot simply plant the seed, as a different variety will materialise. Instead, one must take a cutting from the desired variety and physically attach it to an apple sapling or tree already rooted in the ground. This process, known as grafting has been utilised for thousands of years.
H is for Harvest. This pioneering New Zealand cider company was founded in Gisborne by cider legend Brian Shanks. He was bought out by HP Bulmer, the world’s largest cider maker bringing improved cider making knowledge to Aotearoa.
I is for Ice Cider. A form of cider akin to a dessert wine but produced through the fermentation of highly concentrated, sugar-rich juice. This is achieved either through thawing frozen juice, or by pressing frozen apples, as is the tradition in North America.
J is for Jersey. The name given to the shape of many cider apple varieties. Jersey-type varieties are characterised by broad shoulders, tapering to the base. These apples contain high quantities of tannin, creating bitter and astringent ciders.
K is for Keeving. A traditional cider making method, now primarily used in France. Yeasts and nutrients combine in the freshly pressed juice and float to surface to form a big, brown, cow pat like blob, called thechapeau brun(brown hat). Sounds nice, right? The brilliant clear juice, devoid of yeasts and nutrients is removed and it undergoes a slow, and incomplete fermentation, producing naturally sweet and lower alcohol cider.
L is for Lord Bute. Prime Minister of Britain who introduced a Cider Tax in 1763 to fund (another) war in Europe. Such was the outrage at this act that it led to rioting and the burning of effigies in the streets of towns and cities across the West of England.
M is for Malolactic Fermentation. A spontaneous, non-alcoholic fermentation that isn’t easily controlled and not always welcome. Can produce sour acid and diacetyl (butterscotch) flavours, which can be pleasant in the right quantities, but overpowering if they dominate.
N is for Nelson & Tasman. The biggest cider making area today in New Zealand today and home to the oldest cider maker still operating. The Rochdale Cider works were opened in 1945 and McCashins Brewery still operate from the original site and produce Rochdale Cider today.
O is for Orchard. This is defined as an intentional planting of 5 or more apple trees in a land parcel. Orchards can be traced back thousands of years to the Mesopotamians, Greeks and Romans.
P is for Panking Pole. Highly technical piece of orcharding equipment. It consists of a long pole with a crook and a spike, which was traditionally used to shake the branches of large apple trees in order get the fruit down to the ground for picking.
Q is for Quality Control. Normally used with inverted commas, this is a fancy word for drinking cider! It forms a crucial part of the cider maker’s ability to ensure that the product meets expectations and further develops the palate.
R is for Radcliffe Cook, C.W. An English MP from Herefordshire at the end of the 19th Century. Such was his passion and support for cider making, that he was affectionately known as the ‘Member for Cider’.
S is for Scrumpy. In the UK this term is used to denote a rough, cloudy and vinegary cider. In New Zealand, Scrumpy is used to describe a cider that is higher in alcohol.
T is for Truck. The name given to the part payment of agricultural labourers with cider. Although outlawed in 1887, it still continued well into the 20th century, and probably still goes on today
U is for UK. Unsurprisingly, this is the world’s biggest cider market, with 45% of global cider consumption. It started as an agricultural drink – every farm would have had an orchard providing fruit to make cider for the family and for the farm labourers.
V is for Vintage. A cider made from a single year’s harvest and allowed to undergo a slow and lengthy fermentation and maturation, producing bold and complex flavours.
W is for Wassail. An Olde English meaning ‘be whole’ or ‘good health’ – it is quite literally the original term for cheers! A wassail ceremony takes place on the Pagan New Year’s eve, 6th January, in the orchard. The oldest tree in the orchard is blessed by singing to it, evil spirits are warned away through shotgun fire and good luck charms of cider soaked bread are placed on the branches of the trees by the youngest boy in the crowd, called the Tom Tit.
X is for X-Rated. Many cider apple varieties have wonderfully rude names such as: Bastard Underleaf, Yellow Willy, Bushy French Hard Knock and Spotted Dick!
Y is for Yeast. Along with the selection of apple variety, the action of yeast has the greatest impact over the resultant flavour of a cider. Most commercial cider will be made with an introduced, cultured, Champagne type yeast. Many craft producers will allow a wild fermentation to take place, increasing the chance of spoilage but also leading to more interesting and complex ciders.
Z is for Zoider apple. A variety of apple that you don’t know the name of, but upon biting into it, turns your mouth inside out with high astringency.
Take a look at The Ciderologist for more.