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Much like with wine, there are a number of terms that describe cider and perry. Here we've listed some of the most common ones that we think will help most for choosing and understanding.
Starting with the definition of cider itself, did you know that in the UK, some mass produced ciders and so-called "pear ciders" are as little as 35% juice, often from concentrate, with the rest made up of flavourings and sweeteners? Craft products from small producers have much higher juice content, up to 100%. If you see the quality mark of the Small Independent Cider Makers Association, they set the bar at a minimum 90% juice from UK grown fruit, with no concentrates allowed.
Traditional/West Country Cider is predominantly made with cider apples which are high in tannins, adding astringency (slight bitterness). Cider apples are traditionally grown in the West Country.
Modern/Eastern Counties Cider blend juice from cooking and eating apples, and may have a more acidic flavour than ciders made from traditional apple varieties.
Flavoured/Fruit Cider is any cider blended with fruit, hops, spices or other flavourings. Technically under HMRC's definition these are classified as made-wines.
Fine Cider may be made using techniques such as keeving, be bottle conditioned, or be a special vintage.
Perry is made from perry pears and is usually matured for several months.
Pear Cider can be made from eating pears and may not spend as long maturing as a perry.
Like wine, cider and perry can be classed on a scale from dry to sweet. The sweetness is usually graded by the maker. It is quite subjective and has been the cause of many heated debates! Ciders may be sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener. If sugar is used then, unless the cider has been keeved, the cider may continue fermenting, so for packaged ciders the yeast will usually be killed by pasteurisation or by adding sulphites in order to prevent that happening.