Fruit cider has become more and more popular in recent years and is now the fastest growing category in the UK cider market, but what exactly is it? Is it just cider made with fruit juice, or is there more to it than that?
And what's the difference between proper fruit cider and those sweet, commercial alcopops you find in stores? In this blog post, we'll answer all of those questions and more!
What is fruit cider?
Part of the confusion around fruit cider comes from the fact that there's no standard definition of it. Cider is made from apples so fruit cider is either apple cider, flavoured with fruit juice, or a drink made from other fruits entirely.
The history of fruit cider
Fruit has been used to sweeten cider for years. Traditional cider is fermented until all of the sugar has been turned into alcohol so it is very dry. If you wanted a sweeter cider then you added a bit of fruit juice - that's where the idea of cider and black (currant) came from.
The emergence of 'fruit ciders'
In recent years, commercial drinks producers started making 'fruit ciders' which weren't cider at all but alcopops flavoured with artificial fruit flavours. They were called 'cider' because it sounded more natural but if you've ever tried one you'll know that they're anything but natural!
Proper fruit cider
We used to be dead against ‘fruit ciders’ because they all used to be of the artificial variety but a number of producers have now started making proper fruit ciders. We’ve now come to the conclusion that proper cider with proper fruit juice can be a very nice alternative for those with a sweeter palette.
Fruit cider favours
Proper cider makers blend proper cider with natural fruit flavours and are looking to achieve a balance between the flavours. They use local fruits like blackberry, raspberry, rhubarb, strawberry, blackcurrant and elderflower and want to bring out the best of the ingredients.
Commercial producers are not restricted to local fruits or even natural fruit flavours at all. We're not sure what fruit Parma Violet flavour is supposed to be?! And as one cider maker remarked, there's not a lot of mangoes grown in Somerset!
Why does proper fruit cider cost more?
Proper fruit cider is made from proper cider with added fruit juice. Compare this to commercial 'fruit ciders' which are artificially made from cheap alcohol, mixed with water, sugar (or artificial sweeteners) and fruit flavouring. You can see why one costs a lot more than the other.
To stop the spead of these cheap alcopops, the Government classified any drink with any other fruit added as 'made wine' for tax purposes and introduced a very high duty rate for any 'made wine' over 4%. That's why the majority of fruit ciders on the market are 4%.
Unfortunately that increased duty rate also applies to proper cider makers so they have the double whammy of high production costs and also high duty rates. That's why proper fruit cider is more expensive than commercial 'fruit cider'.
The proof is in the pudding
Now you know how they're made, you'll understand the difference between them. And when you try them, the you'll taste the difference immediately. While commercial fruit ciders are sweet with an artificial aftertaste, proper fruit ciders are deliciously light, with a natural sweetness and the balanced flavour of real fruit coming through.
Where to find proper fruit cider
It's still quite hard to find proper fruit cider and you won't find any in the supermarket. We've put together a selection of the best ones that we've found so you can try a few different ones and see which is your favourite. If you find any more then please let us know! Fruit Cider Mixed Case