Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Making Wine -vs- Making Cider

   If you can make good cider you can make good wine, but not the other way around.  For one thing, cider is more difficult to "stabilize", it has less alcohol, the acids are different and lower (higher PH), and it has less tannin.  But more notably, the flavors of cider are more subtle and aloof.  By the time you master blending cider the variations in wine seem easily identifiable and ready to pair.   
   Yet when I hear what my colleagues in the wine industry do to make, say a chardonnay, I'm disappointed by the by-the-book approach they all seem to take.  It's as though academia has given them a "how to" on wine:  You add sugar if the brix aren't right, you add acid if the T.A. is off.  You sulfite the must so that lab yeasts have a sterile start, you sulfite at each rack and you sulfite at bottle for ML bacteria and oxidation.  And is it necessary to use a sterile filter?  Forgettaboutit! Who doesn't?
   This is the cider-makers advantage.  We don't have decades of formula to draw upon and we are given the opportunity to figure it out on our own.  Individually reinventing the wheel trains us to trust our instincts and we learn to self-critique without bias or expectation.  We are more more likely to ignore teachers, advise from "professionals", and even the feedback from the market.  If we can maintain our innocence our products will preserve a spontaneity, creativity and uniqueness lacking in most wine.  Quickly, professionals and academia are jocking for authority in today's revamped cider market, some want to establish a standard, but I elect we maintain a healthy skepticism as cider develops down the path blazed by wine.  Truth is, we need both, explanation and exploration, but we are blessed with fewer hang-ups in our "new" market.  We are free to be kids, and I feel sorry for those self-imprisoned by the tag authority. 

1 comment:

  1. We have a cider makers co-op here in Seattle area, and noted during a recent tasting gathering how we were evaluating each cider we made on its own merits. Our fruit is a mix of homestead, home grown, seedling and otherwise foraged. One of us commented that in a similar wine making setting, the benchmark was always some commercial version of a known varietal or blend. Cider makers now have the world at their fingertips, it is an absolute tragedy so many resort to adjuncts to make it ‘drinkable’.