Cider Terminology

The following are some fairly common cider and perry description and evaluation terms judges should familiarize themselves with. Many come from the wine world, but are not necessarily all used the same as a grape wine reviewer might.


The lingering taste on the palate, usually noticed in the back of the throat. Ideally lasts fairly long – the impression of great cider usually does not disappear after the swallow – and without harshness or detracting off-characters. Synonym for finish or length.


Drying sensation in the mouth, generally caused by apple or pear tannins, but may include contribution by spices, other astringent fruits, or wood aging. Not itself a flaw and welcome at some level in every style, but can become a flaw in excess amounts that dominate the beverage or cause significant balance issues.


More commonly used in describing wine, the term is a moderately-restrained negative descriptor. Generally indicates a dry cider with little to no fruit but with elevated tannin or especially acid levels. Slightly different from “angular” which would more specifically indicate excessive acidity, but not necessarily lacking fruit or sweetness. An austere cider may improve with aging.


No component of balance (sweetness, fruitiness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, carbonation, body) overwhelms the others. Balanced does not mean these components are “equal” – each style will have its own balance, and among styles every level of sweetness may require re-balancing the other components.


Aroma, smell, or “nose” of the cider.


Not a character you can taste, unless we’re referring to its effect of raising alcohol. This is when simple sugars have been added to juice to raise its gravity. May be indicated in Specialty Information by the entrant. Commonly done with Applewine, sometimes other styles if the juice sugar level is particularly low that season. Entries in C1 Standard Cider and Perry should be chaptalized only with white sugar and should not have an adjunct character.


No off aromas or flavors are present. Some cidermakers include “purity of fruit” and “lack of yeast-derived aromatics” in this description.


A positive impression that is not one-note, not insipid, and not boring, but not muddled or cluttered either. Multi-dimensional but harmonious.


Generally refers to the type of apple character noticed. The kind of character one gets if one boils apple juice or uses a lot of concentrate. Can also occur if cider is pasteurized in the bottle. There is usually little nuance or complexity. Not a particularly positive descriptor, but common with very simple cider from store-bought mass-produced juice or concentrate, and does not necessarily indicate there are any flaws. Sometimes interpreted as a richer, warmer and more inviting cooked apple character.


A sensation on the tongue that indicates a lack of residual sugar. Dryness varies from bone-dry to dry, off-dry, and semi-dry. In wine and sometimes in cider a descriptor of dry may include drying sensation from tannins; judges must make clear which they are referring to.


Rough, unpleasant flavor and finish, may give a biting or stinging sensation in the mouth, often from excessive bitterness, alcohol, or tannins.


Generally indicates excessive alcohol content for balance or in high gravity ciders a young, not yet mature beverage. Occasionally used to describe solvent/higher alcohol character indicating more of the wrong kind of alcohol rather than amount. Judges should note the type of hot that they are experiencing.


Not a character but perhaps seen in the specialty information/description the entrant provides, this indicates the yeast was intentionally starved by removing nutrients from the juice prior to fermentation, followed by a long slow fermentation that ended with significant residual sugar remaining in the cider.


A moderately low level of carbonation, clearly not still, and not highly carbonated. There is no defined volume of carbonation corresponding to where petillant ends and where sparkling begins, and judges have no way of determining actual volumes of carbonation anyway. Rather, judges should focus on whether balance of a cider or perry would be improved with greater or less carbonation, and only focus on the declared carbonation level if differing significantly from that in the glass. Also note judging at significant altitude may alter impression of carbonation.


Sometimes used when experiencing dry versions of styles like New World Cider or Applewine without a lot of structure or elevated apple character. If legitimately watery it’s usually less negative to just say Thin.


Generally used to describe cider that has aged significantly in an oak cask or with chips/chunks/spirals. May include an astringent character, and other widely varying flavor and aromas depending on toast level of the wood in question. With high-gravity cider that has been aged, oxidation can take on a character reminiscent of wood. Judges will have to use their best judgement as to whether the character and level of this is appropriate – at best it is likely only acceptable in C2F Specialty Cider.


Generally unbalanced, rough cider that has not yet matured. The often unstated companion phrase is that the cider may improve with time. Many characters overlap with “Harsh”. Alcohol may seem higher than it truly is, especially with bigger styles. Fruit characters may be indistinct or muddled, or in the case of recent backsweetening with juice seem raw and unfermented. This descriptor can come off as presumptive, however there is nothing wrong with telling an entrant that the cider presents as young.