What Exactly is Fine Cider?

Fine Cider Pick and Mix Case

What Exactly is Fine Cider?

We are all familiar with the world of fine wine, made with the finest grapes with the potential to improve as it ages, but what about fine cider? In comparison to fine wine, fine cider very much goes under the radar. Even ‘craft beer’ the moniker attributed to types of lager and pale ales made by smaller brewers to satisfy the modern drinker, has had its moment in the spotlight for several years now. In past articles, we’ve explored traditional ciders and session cider, so in this blog, we’ll take a look at fine cider, including how its made, our Sandford Orchards range and how it differs from other types of cider.

What is fine cider?

Put simply, fine cider is a type of cider that is made with more traditional methods and high-quality ingredients. With that comes stronger, more complex flavours and character – much like a fine wine. How that differs from traditional and session cider lies in the apple variety that is used, and the length and method of the fermentation process. For example, our Y.D.B fine cider is made by combining vintages, and with that different methods of cider-making, including arrested fermentation, but more on that in a moment.

Fine cider is often produced in smaller batches than traditional cider drinks, which add a more ‘exclusive’ or ‘premium’ element. In fact, during the 18th century, fine cider was hailed as “the native wine of England” and was routinely consumed by high society, including the royalty.

How is fine cider made?

As we have explored in previous articles, seasonality and apple variety can play a significant role in the taste and quality of cider. When it comes to fine cider, those two factors take on an even bigger role. But how is fine cider actually made?

Apple Harvest

If you take our Y.D.B cider, we follow a number of fermentation processes which differ from traditional cider-making to alter the composition of the cider. One of those methods is arrested fermentation, a process which halts the active fermentation, including the conversion of sugar into alcohol and CO2, before dryness is reached. This is a manual method which relies on temperature control, but the end result is typically a cider that is sweeter than traditional drink. Arrested fermentation is a common technique in winemaking and is the process used to produce fortified wines such as Port.

Another method which is used to produce Y.D.B and is common in fine cidermaking is wild fermentation, where you let nature do the work. The oldest method of cidermaking, wild fermentation allows naturally-pressed cider to naturally ferment and take advantage of the natural yeasts that are present, eventually producing a cider with a distinctive, unique character.

What are the different types of Fine Cider?

We can’t describe the process of fine cidermaking without mentioning tannins, that beautiful compound found in fruit skins that has a unique bitterness to it. During the Sandford Orchards harvesting process, which can feature mature cider that is over two years old, the tannins in the apples go on a long journey to acquire layers upon layers of flavour and depth. The end result can be found in the variety of flavours in our fine cider range. Our owner Barny waxes lyrical about tannins and the Autumn Harvest in a past blog post, where you can find out more about our cidermaking process.

Currently, we have four ciders in our fine cider range, including Y.D.B which we have focussed on above. Beyond that, two popular drinks belong to our Katja range, the Martinotti-style cider that is our take on Prosecco. Made using the Katja dessert apple, the cider contains a subtle sweetness with a dry-to-medium flavour. The Martinotti method gives Katja an Italian-heritage that is made in Devon. The final fermentation process takes place in a pressurised tank that gradually carbonates the cider, before chilling to a cold temperature.

To learn more about our fine cider range, head to our website and browse our collection. And if we have piqued your interest about all things cidermaking, our Sandford Orchards blog contains more information on the processes.

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