Lets face it, cider is generally misunderstood. People think cider is cider, it’s a one-dimensional product. I’ve heard all sorts of stories when trying to enlighten and persuade people into the cider-world…”It reminds me of the time I woke up in a hedge at 16 years old with a banging headache” then there’s the, “my student budget forced me down the cider route”. Unfortunately for most people, cider tends to be memorable but not in a good way…alas, this is the case. However, there is hope, with artisanal ciders coming to the fore, trying to redeem this product from the industrial produced cider, which has perhaps confused people’s perception of it. However, it seems to me for a product to be taken seriously it needs to have the right regulations and labelling in place, so that it can be understood properly.
Why not look to French wine as a good place to start…
The National Institute of Appellations of Origin (INAO) created the Appellation d’Origine Controlee (aoc) system in 1935 to guarantee the origin of wine and other food products, such as cheese. The AOC was the first organization to define strict regulations for winemakers, and since then many other countries have used the AOC as a model for their own wine regulations. The following classifications are still governed by the INAO today:
- AOC (appellation of controlled origin)
- VDQS (wines of superior quality)
- VIN DE PAYS (country wine)
- VIN DE TABLE (table wine)
The INAO defined strict, specific, appellation characteristics to help guide the consumer, promote minimum levels of quality and energise growers into producing better wines. Why can’t we organise a similar system with cider? Create guidelines for cider-makers to follow in each county/region to produce what is best for that area with that terroir. That way, there will be a lot more diversity and cider will be easier to understand as styles will take place and a hierarchy of quality can be implemented, allowing the ciders of better quality, to be easily recognised through the label and consequently be able to charge a premium for it; because at the moment cider is classed under one simple label, which is ridiculous, when you consider there are cideries out there producing 450 million litres of the stuff which is made up of 35% fermented apple juice and then there are other cideries producing 7000 litres from 100% fermented apple juice but there is nothing on the label to distinguish that massive difference.
Most craft cider is suitable for vegans and vegetarians and is a gluten free product but this is not displayed on the label. This is something that could be exploited more by the smaller producers. Iford cider based near Bath, have taken the initiative of adding a small apple logo that features on their cider’s labels with the words, never from concentrate. It’s extra details like this that create questions for the consumer and can give them more information to help them choose the right cider for their needs!