Introduction to Cider Guidelines
Cider is fermented apple juice. Perry is fermented pear juice. There are two categories for cider/perry: Standard (Category 27) and Specialty (Category 28). The Standard category covers ciders and perries made primarily or entirely from the juice of apples or pears (but not both at once). The only adjunct permitted in the Standard category, and only in some sub-categories, is a limited addition of sugar to achieve a suitable starting gravity. Note that honey is not a "sugar" for this purpose; a cider made with added honey must be entered either as a specialty cider or as a cyser under the appropriate mead sub-category. Other sugar sources that also add significant flavors (brown sugar, molasses) would also create a specialty cider (such as New England style).
Aroma and Flavor
- Ciders and perries do not necessarily present overtly fruity aromas or flavors in the same sense that a wine does not taste overtly of grapes. Drier styles of cider in particular develop more complex but less fruity characters. In fact, a simple "apple soda" or "wine cooler" character is not desirable in a cider or perry.
- Some styles of cider exhibit distinctly UN-fruity tastes or aromas, such as the "smoky bacon" undertones of a dry English cider.
- The sweetness (residual sugar, or RS) of a cider or perry may vary from absolutely dry (no RS) to as much as a sweet dessert wine (10% or more RS). In sweeter ciders, other components of taste particularly acidity must balance the sweetness. The level of sweetness must be specified in order to arrange flights of tastings and entries within flights. Tasting always proceeds from drier to sweeter. There are three categories of sweetness:
- Dry: below 0.9% residual sugar. This corresponds to a final specific gravity of under 1.002.
- Medium: in the range between dry and sweet (0.9% to 4% residual sugar, final gravity 1.002 to 1.012). Sometimes characterized as either 'off-dry' or 'semi-sweet.'
- Sweet: above 4% residual sugar, corresponding roughly to a final gravity of over 1.012.
- Acidity is an essential element of cider and perry: it must be sufficient to give a clean, refreshing impression without being puckering. Acidity (from malic and in some cases lactic acids) must not be confused with acetification (from acetic acid (vinegar)): the acrid aroma and tingling taste of acetification is a fault.
- Ciders and perries vary considerably in tannin. This affects both bitterness and astringency (see "Mouthfeel" below). If made from culinary or table fruit, tannins are typically low; nevertheless some tannin is desirable to balance the character. The character contributed by tannin should be mainly astringency rather than bitterness. An overt or forward bitterness is a fault (and is often due to processing techniques rather than fruit).
- In general, cider and perry have a mouthfeel and fullness akin to a substantial white wine. The body is less than that of beers. Full-sparkling ciders will be champagne-like.
- The apple and pear varieties are intended to illustrate commonly used examples, not dictate requirements when making the style.
- In general, adjuncts are prohibited except where specifically allowed in particular styles, and then the entrant must state them. Common processing aids, and enzymes, are generally allowed as long as they are not detectable in the finished cider.
- Yeast used for cider/perry may be either "natural" (the yeast which occurs on the fruit itself and/or is retained in the milling and pressing equipment) or cultured yeast. Malo-lactic fermentation is allowed, either naturally occurring or with an added ML culture.
- Enzymes may be used for clarification of the juice prior to fermentation.
- Malic acid may be added to a low-acid juice to bring acidity up to a level considered safe for avoiding bacterial contamination and off-flavors (typically pH 3.8 or below). Entrant MUST state if malic acid was added.
- Sulfites may be added as needed for microbiological control. If used, the maximum accepted safe level for sulfites (200 mg/l) should be strictly observed; moreover, any excess sulfite that is detectable in the finished cider (a "burning match" character) is a serious fault.
- Sorbate may be added at bottling to stabilize the cider. However, any residual aroma/flavor from misuse or excessive use of sorbate (e.g., a "geranium" note) is a distinct fault.
- Carbonation may be either natural (by maintaining CO2 pressure through processing or by bottle-conditioning) or added (by CO2 injection).