Wine Education: What You Need to Know About the Cider Revolution
Cider. You've seen a dozen varieties show up in the most unexpected places: from tapas bars to hipster hangouts, farmers markets to fine dining. A cider revolution is underway in the USA and this once ubiquitous drink is again finding fans among all walks of life.
But what exactly is cider? Cider is simply fermented apple juice, and it was once the drink of choice among our founding fathers and their families for generations. Lighter than a fruit wine, cider varieties range from sparkling to still, sweet to dry… there's a cider available to suit any palate.
So what caused this once noble beverage to fall from grace? Prohibition. Before the 18th amendment went into effect, apple growers produced cider to preserve their crops and to provide customers with a safe alternative to the questionable drinking water of the time.
Sadly, apple farmers faced a grim reality when the production and sale of alcoholic beverages was banned in 1920- without selling cider much of their crops would never make it to market and their orchards would be doomed to fail.
They knew that the special varieties of apples grown for cider production were far too sour and acidic for eating out of hand, but many orchards couldn't remain profitable without selling them. Something had to be done.
Some apple producers chose to level their cider orchards, destroying thousands of heirloom apple trees overnight only to replant the land instead with the usual dessert varieties. Other producers refused to destroy their crops and instead decided to circumvent the letter of the law while inadvertently changing the American lexicon forever.
Enter "Sweet Cider". Many crafty apple producers began selling their private cider juice blends unfermented and re-branded it as "sweet cider"- fully expecting that customers would ferment the juice at home to produce the alcoholic beverage they knew and loved.
But before long this unfiltered non-alcoholic "cider" became beloved by all as a sweet autumn treat, quickly replacing true "cider" in the heart and mind of mid-century Americans while the traditional alcoholic beverage fell into obscurity.
In recent years, however, a craft cider revolution has taken shape as the efforts of modern cider producers, inspired by the past, have reinvigorated the American cider scene. Today dozens of "hard ciders" are found in an amazing range of styles- from traditional dry ciders to modern full-bodied sparkling ciders with just a hint of sweetness.
- Julia Miller