What is Real Cider?

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Real cider is essentially the fermented juice of the apple with nothing added and nothing taken away. At the moment the majority of the cider sold in the UK is mostly made from imported apple concentrate, is full of artificial colourings, sweeteners, and preservatives, is filtered, is pasteurised to render it inert and is kept and served under carbon dioxide pressure. Don't assume that if it is served through a hand pump that it is real cider.

To protect traditional English varieties of cider and perry, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) set up a sub-group, the Apple and Pear Produce Liason Executive (APPLE). APPLE publish the Good Cider Guide which lists pubs in Britain where real cider and perry are available. APPLE have defined two categories of real cider (and perry), anything which does not fall within these categories is not considered to be real cider (or perry).

Category A

A definition agreed by APPLE to denote the very best of cider and perry, with nothing added or taken away.

Category A - must:

Category B

Category A covers the majority of cider makers but only a small proportion of the total amount of cider made. A larger number of real ciders differ in some small respect from Category A ciders but are sufficiently authentic to be designated real cider since the taste and character of the cider is unaffected. These are Category B ciders.

Category B - must:

Sweet Cider or Hard Cider?

North Americans use the term sweet cider to mean freshly-pressed apple juice, and hard cider to mean fermented apple juice, ie what in the UK would be termed cider.
[Editor's Note June 2003: Perry is generally called pear cider in the US - Ed.]


Scrumpy is a term often used to described certain types of cider. It is one of those terms for which everyone has a definition and everyone's definition is different. Originally it was cider made from windfalls (scrumps). For most people it means a rough, cloudy and unsophisticated cider. It is most often applied to young cider, ie that which is only a few months old and has yet to undergo the maturation phase (including the malo-lactic fermentation). For other people, including some cider makers, it can mean the finest cider, from selected, better apples, slowly fermented and matured for longer than ordinary ciders.

Apple Wine

When is it a cider and when an apple wine? This is a frequently asked question. There is no definitive answer to this. The best that can be said is that first of all apple wine falls outside of the definitions given above. Secondly, apple wine will almost always be made with dessert (sweet) apples. This materially affects the flavour of the finished drink. Cider apples contain high levels of tannins and significant amounts of malic acid. These are not found to significant levels in dessert apples. Therefore a cider has a sharpness (due to malic acid) and a bitterness (due to tannins) which is simply not found in apple wines. Commonly people will refer to the qualities that these components give to the cider as the "bite". This is not apparent in apple wine. The final distinction is the alcohol content. Cider generally has an alcohol content which does not exceed (about) 8 percent by volume. Apple wines can commonly have higher alcohol contents. These wines will inevitably have been fermented using wine yeasts, not natural or ale yeasts, since only wine yeasts are tolerant to the high alcohol levels. The wine yeasts will impart their own flavour profile to the apple wine, moving it further away from a true cider. Note that in some countries the distinctions may be regulated by law on the basis of alcohol content alone.

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Created by Gillian Grafton (last update 18 December 1995) and now edited and maintained by Paul Gunningham.
Original text copyright © Gillian Grafton 1990-1996; revisions copyright © Paul Gunningham 2003.
This page was last updated on 7 June 2003. If you have any comments please contact .

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