Cherry, blueberry, raspberry and more. When browsing the shelf at your local store or scoping out the tap handles at the cider bar, you may come across many different flavors of ciders.
But what really makes a cider a cider? What even is a "Raspberry Cider"? Does it come down to the technical details, or does it have to do with the type of fruit used? For instance, while they do exist, is a pineapple cider really a cider?
In this writer's opinion the answer comes down to a few key questions: Is the flavor derived from the addition of actual fruit? What is the prominence of the fruit flavor? And, perhaps most importantly, is it made from entirely "that" fruit or is there apple as well?
The addition of actual fruit is a key component of whether a cider is truly a cider. If something is called a "raspberry cider" it sure had better have raspberries in it! The addition of fruit can take place in two different ways, both of which are fairly common. The first way, as is done in the brewing world, is to add the fruit to the mash. Now with cider it's not really a mash, but throwing the raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and other fruit into the press when pressing the apples can give the sweet cider a nice flavor. The problem with this method is that sometimes the flavor is not pronounced enough, as it can be hard to get the ratio of fruit to apples just right. And the fermentation process can also change the intensity of the flavors because it can alter the chemical structures.
The alternative to adding the fruit directly is to do a separate fermentation of the fruit after it has been pressed separately from the apples. The result will give you a fermented strawberry juice, not unlike cider, that can then be blended with the finished hard cider product. However, some flavors can still be very delicate and difficult to pick up on. Both peach and strawberry, for instance, can be very delicate. A good, true peach cider will be very light and subtle: Peach shouldn't be the first, or only, thing you taste.
Whether a cider has apples in it is the biggest indicator of whether it is a cider or not. In the eyes of the US Government (as well as most other national governments) a cider is not a CIDER unless it is made from apples. In the case of "cider" made from pears, it earns the title of "perry". All others are considered fruit wines... But this can be a misnomer because of their light alcohol percentages. As discussed in "What Makes A Cider A Cider?", when classing hard cider, anything that is made with over 8.5% ABV is considered wine. So, with these rules in place, if a "cider uses only raspberries, it's a raspberry wine, not a cider.
These types of wines are called "fruit wines" and are very prominent in Connecticut. Wineries like Staehly Farm Winery and Holmberg's Orchards specialize in producing fruit wines as well as some fabulous ciders from locally grown fruit. And for fruit ciders that meet the criteria above, New England Cider Company offers a great selection including a peach cider that is in very high demand but worth the effort of finding a bottle.
Have you tried a local fruit cider that you really enjoyed? Let us know by submitting a review! And to find a CT Cidery near you, visit our directory, here.