Vinous Spirits Critic and celebrated wine, spirits and travel writer Jason Wilson has released his latest book titled The Cider Revival. Cider is the quintessential American beverage. Drank by early settlers and founding fathers, it was ubiquitous and pervasive, but following Prohibition when orchards were destroyed and neglected, cider all but disappeared. In The Cider Revival, Wilson chronicles what is happening now, an extraordinary rebirth that is less than a decade old. We’re very pleased to share an excerpt from his exciting new work with the Delectable community. More information and purchase options are available on . ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Think about an apple. Try not to think about context and meaning. Don’t think about the Garden of Eden or a talking snake who coaxes Eve into eating an apple from the tree of life and all that business about original sin and the so-called “fall of man.” (Never mind that the forbidden fruit was probably a fig or a pomegranate anyway.) Forget the golden apples of immortality kept by the Norse goddess Idunn, or the apple that fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, or the poisoned apple given to Snow White. Forget about an apple a day keeping the doctor away. Just picture an apple in your mind. If you’re like most people, it’s a simple thing to conjure, something you’ve done since childhood—A, after all, is for Apple. What you’re likely imagining is red and shiny and perfectly round. It’s the kind of apple you’d find in the grocery store. If we were to put a name to this apple, it might be Red Delicious or McIntosh or Gala or Fuji or Cortland or Jonagold or everyone’s new favorite, Honeycrisp. Or perhaps Granny Smith or Golden Delicious if you think in green or yellow rather than red. In any case, you’re likely thinking of an apple you can hold in your hand and bite into. These are called dessert apples or culinary apples. They’re the sort of familiar fruit that much of the cider in the United States is made from. Cider from dessert apples veers toward sweet and low in alcohol, with straightforward appley aromas, not too much acidity, and almost no tannins or structure. Ciders like this can be refreshing and quaffable, if they aren’t too cloying, which unfortunately many of them are. But they don’t offer much in the way of complexity. A cider made from dessert apples is what cider people call modern. Modern, in fact, is the official term used by the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM), a trade group of more than a thousand members, which invested a lot of time and effort in 2017 to create a Style Guide that delineates various categories. The opposite of modern cider is the other major category—cider made from cider apples. Cider apples are far from the idealized shiny red orbs of childhood. They’re often gnarled, rough, russeted, pocked with brown and black spots, oddly shaped, and sometimes the size of little deformed golf balls. These apples might be classified as bittersweets, bittersharps, heirlooms, crab apples, or even wild apples. According to the USACM’s Cider Style Guide, ciders made with cider apples are now officially called heritage, to differentiate them from modern cider. Heritage cider, the USACM states in its definition, has “increased complexity” and “complex aromatics.” The complexity of heritage cider is created in the orchard. Bittersweet apples like Yarlington Mill, Chisel Jersey, or Dabinett are high in sugar, yet have serious tannins—that drying, black-tea-meets-fuzzy-stone texture that red wine drinkers know well. Meanwhile, bittersharps, such as Kingston Black, Porter’s Perfection, and Foxwhelp, pair enamel-peeling acidity with big tannins. Cider apples might have ten times the tannins of dessert apples. Once upon a time, when bittersharps and bittersweets were more common, they were known as “spitters.” After I took a particularly astringent bite of a Chisel Jersey at Farnum Hill, I expectorated and understood why. Farnum Hill’s famed orchardist Steve Wood laughed and told me, “You’d be arrested for child abuse if you put that in your kid’s lunchbox.” Many of the bittersweets and bittersharps that now grow in North America were first cultivated in England or France, where they have been used for centuries in cider. In Britain, the first references to cider date back to 55 BCE, when the invading Romans observed the Celts fermenting a drink from local apples. More apple varieties were introduced from across the English Channel during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In Normandy, by the 16th century, there were more than 60 named apples officially permitted for cider making. Early settlers brought apples to America, and within a few years after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth in 1620, the first apple trees were planted in Massachusetts. By the 1670s, some New England villages were producing more than 500 hogsheads (or 32,000 gallons) per year. By the end of the 18th century, the average Massachusetts resident consumed, annually, about 35 gallons of cider. This was the era of the often-told tale of John Adams’s prodigious cider consumption—it’s said that Adams drank a tankard every day at breakfast. Beyond European bittersharps and bittersweets, American heirloom apples are also sought after for heritage cider, bringing complex aromas, minerality, and acidity. Heirlooms such as Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Newtown Pippin, or Golden Russet are historic varieties that were cultivated in early America. The oldest is believed to be the Roxbury Russet, which was first propagated in the 1630s by settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many heirlooms were prized for both drinking and eating in centuries past, but at some point they fell out of favor and popular taste, for several reasons. First, there was the emergence of quality beer, brought to America by German immigrants in the mid-19th century, that began to supplant cider as the popular drink. Then, in the early 20th century came the temperance movement and Prohibition, with widely circulated tales of zealots like Carrie Nation chopping or burning down cider orchards. Those stories are mostly apocryphal, but what did change was the perception of the apple—from an ingredient in cider making to something healthy that you ate fresh. The turn of the 20th century was when the marketing slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” became mainstream. By the mid-20th century, the nationwide standardization of fruit for the growing supermarket industry meant relying less on idiosyncratic, local varieties, and more on dessert apples such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, or Granny Smith. In any case, heirloom apples are now kept alive most often in small orchards, coveted by cider makers who blend them with tart crab apples and foraged wild fruit. Likewise, heritage cider is made mostly by small local producers, people who live in close connection to their apples. On my cider journey, I’ve focused mainly on this so-called heritage cider, and the curious varieties used to make it. Modern cider does not need my help. More than three-quarters of the cider in the United States is produced and sold by large brands such as Angry Orchard, Strongbow, Woodchuck, Crispin, and Stella Artois Cidre, all owned by huge drinks conglomerates. While Angry Orchard does produce a few heritage bottlings, it and the others make predominantly modern cider. No judgment here, and if that’s the sort of cider you enjoy, cheers! My feeling is that if a fermented apple beverage is ultimately going to capture hearts and minds, it will be heritage cider. I’m interested in cider makers who are revivalists, committed to hard work in the orchard, and whose ciders tell the story of a specific place and time. Whose cider have, dare we say it, terroir. This wine-like concept makes a lot of cider people, many of whom came to cider via craft beer, very uneasy. “Do apples exhibit terroir, that rather pretentious term applied to wine grapes grown on different soils and in different climates?” asks Ben Watson, in a 2018 essay for the cider zine Malus. Watson—who wrote the seminal cider book Cider, Hard and Sweet in the 1990s—answers yes to his own question. But note the hand-wringing and characterization of terroir as “rather pretentious.” To be clear, terroir is not any more pretentious than other French words that you use every day, such as café, salad, omelet, cliché, entrepreneur, encore, fiancé, or toilet. Terroir is simply a fact of agricultural life: better sweet onions come from Vidalia, Georgia, better Ruby Red grapefruit from Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, better almonds from California, better maple syrup from Vermont, better lobster from Maine. When I was growing up, I was made to understand that the best tomatoes came from near our home in southern New Jersey. For cider apples, one of the world’s great terroirs happens to exist in a humble, beautiful corner of upstate New York called the Finger Lakes, a cluster of 11 long, narrow lakes about four hours drive northwest from Manhattan and less than an hour south of Rochester. I already knew that New York was the nation’s second-largest apple-producing state. But I’d never tasted a Finger Lakes cider until Dan Pucci poured me several at Wassail, holding forth on the pristine farming practices and old-time apple varieties that abounded there. I was immediately blown away by the depth, complexity, and drinkability. These were stunning examples of heritage cider from more than a half-dozen producers. Clearly, some type of cider revival was happening up there. My obsession blossomed, and before I knew it, the Finger Lakes had become almost a second home.

2 Towns Ciderhouse

Riverwood Prosecco Style Cider 2017

Traditions Riverwood Prosecco style cider. 6.3% alc/vol. Made of “Jonagold and Porters Perfection apples... dry, bright and floral”. Light brown golden in color, light carbonation, tiny bubbles, good head on pour but fades quickly. Really nice flavor, dryness, light crispness and bitterness with light to moderate astringency on finish but in a positive way here. Tastes like there’s wood spice there as well as cider was “finished in Chardonnay barrels”. Really nice stuff — 5 years ago

Trixie, Hermes and 2 others liked this

AmByth Estate

Hartless Ciders Mendo Wild Still Natural Hard Apple Cider 2016

Crisp, dry and a bit funky. Made from wild apples harvested in Mendocino County. Beautiful example of a naturally fermented wild cider. — 5 years ago

Finger Lakes Cider House

Kite & String Baldwin Traditional Method Cider

Superb traditional sparking cider from Finger Lakes. This has some crab apple which gives it some bite. This is super dry and really awesome. — 6 years ago

Trixie liked this

Aaron Burr Cidery

Appinette Grape-Apple Cider

Dry. Delicious. Complex. Taste like wine. Not that funky. Clean — 7 years ago

Dave Harvey

Catch of the Day Hard Apple Cider

Yes, this is a cider, not a wine. However, it was crafted with love by Dave Harvey, one of my favorite Washington winemakers. Apples are something else at which Washington excels, along with those wonderful Walla Walla onions. However, I digress, distracted by the idea of a Dave Harvey Walla Walla onion dry vermouth wine. What amazing martinis would be made possible! 🍸

Any road, this cider is no slouch in the flavor department! It is 100% juice from five different apples, and weighs in at a nice 6.9% ABV. In terms of residual sugar, this is more like a Pinot Grigio than a Moscato, dry but not biting or tart. I bought a case; with a splash of real brewed ginger beer it is a go-to afternoon cocktail!
— 5 years ago

Floral Terranes

Restoration Farm Still Cider 2017

Restrained, waxy, textured and tannic, with good but not crazy acid (which the rosemary farms has, the citrus zest kind). Slightest coumarin floral note, and lots of salinity in the finish. One of my favorite ciders, from, for my money, the most vinous of all cider makers. — 5 years ago


Lost And Found Craft Cider 2015

This is cider! Beautiful combination of bruised and fresh apples paired with an earthy funk and a hint of wet wool and salt. — 6 years ago

Eric Bordelet

Poiré Authentique Pear Cider

330 ml love juice ❤️ Cider isn't a drink I'd typically reach for, but if it's Eric Bordelet (or Jacques Perritaz), I'd drink it in a heartbeat. Off-dry with high acidity. Fruity, pure, fresh, and so balanced. Yummo! — 5 years ago

David, Severn and 7 others liked this


Dry Craft Cider

No sugar added. A really solid effort for the style. Nice and dry. — 5 years ago

Bellwether Hard Cider

Black Magic Black Currant

I’m not celebrating my birthday until the weekend but it’s always nice to have something the actual day of - thank you @James Forsyth for sharing this!! It’s delicious, the black currant really makes this taste 😍 chef’s kiss, as we millennials say. Almost dangerously good, it really tastes like the black currant juice I drink in Germany.
Also thank you to
@Shea Bove @Matthew Burgess @Claire Troussieux for making today fun 🥳
— 5 years ago

Shea BoveMatthew BurgessClaire Troussieux
with Shea, Matthew and 2 others
James, Paul and 17 others liked this