Cider is made from fermented apple juice but what differentiates vintage from non-vintage blends?
Overall vintage ciders are of higher quality and value than non-vintage. But what exactly does it mean for cider to be 'vintage'? This will help clarify any confusion and reveal what constitutes a ‘vintage’ cider.
What makes a cider vintage?
Vintage cider primarily differs from non-vintage cider in the type of apples used, the ripening and fermentation process, and the ageing time.
What types of apple are used for vintage cider?
What lies at the very heart of every cider are the apples. Non-vintage ciders are typically made using a blend of multiple apple types and harvest years. Mixing the juice from several different apple varieties ensures a broadly consistent flavour profile of non-vintage cider throughout the years. On the other hand, vintage cider is made from a single year's harvest.
Premier cider apple varieties are used that have higher levels of tannin than dessert apples. By letting apples ripen for an extended period of time, they develop an intense flavour, ensuring the perfect balance of sugars and tannins.
The premier cider apples are nurtured to perfection and carefully handpicked only when they have reached their full aromatic potential. The taste of vintage ciders is primarily determined by growing conditions and the types of apples used, and the flavour profile can differ significantly from year to year.
The fermentation & ageing process
The fermentation process further sets vintage cider from non-vintage cider apart. Non-vintage cider is not left to age but is bottled and sold relatively quickly. Vintage cider is aged for several months or even years after its long and gentle fermentation process.
Ageing allows natural aromas and flavours to unfold with great intensity. While vintage ciders can come in a range of sweetness levels, the lengthy ageing method typically results in a very fine dry cider that is full-bodied and rich in flavour.
What percentage is vintage cider?
The alcohol content of vintage cider depends on several factors, such as the cider apple varieties used, the fermentation process, and the ageing method. Typically, vintage ciders come in 500ml bottles, and their alcohol content ranges from 6% to 8%.
While there may be brands with higher or lower ABVs, to be classified as cider in the UK, the ABV must exceed 1.2% but be below 8.5%.
Why you should choose vintage cider?
The type of cider you enjoy most comes down to personal taste and preference. However, there are reasons why you may prefer vintage cider over non-vintage cider.
The flavour profile of vintage ciders is, on average, more complex and intense than those of non-vintage ciders. Vintage cider is made from a single year's harvest. The apples are handpicked as soon as they have reached their point of perfect ripeness, and the fermented cider is subsequently aged in a traditional vessel to allow the flavours to develop to their full complexity.
The result is a more nuanced and intense flavour profile than that of non-vintage cider, allowing for a higher-quality drinking experience. The traditional production methods used for making vintage cider, such as handpicking the apples and ageing, contribute to the character of vintage cider. While these methods add to the unique flavour, they are also appreciated by those who value artisanal products.
Vintage cider allows not only for an enhanced tasting experience but also for an appreciation of the traditional art of cider making.