FH Cider TALK & TERMS

 Pleasure basics of all FHC:

1) DRYNESS (opposite of sweetness)  2) FRUITY FLAVOR without sweetness   3) BRIGHT ACIDITY  4) BRACING BITTERNESS   5) COMPLEX FLAVOR  6) REFRESHING MOUTH-FEEL  7) DELICIOUS DRY FINISH, excellent with food

Health basics of all FHC:

1) MODERATE Alcohol (6.5-8% abv)  2) LOW CALORIES: about 16 per fluid oz., a third less than dry white wine  3)  GLUTEN-FREE (it’s all fruit, no grain).  4) No artificial ingredients.

ELEMENTS of FH STYLE: to see each FH blend described in sensory terms, click here or on their names below.

Dryness. Farnum Hill Ciders are much, much drier than the bulk of the market. FH cider blends range from wicked dry to radically dry. Customers who complain  “cider is too sweet” should try our barely off-dry styles first: Summer, Semi-Dry, Farmhouse, and certain Dooryards. Then check out the radical non-sweetness of Extra-Dry, Extra Dry Still, and Kingston Black. These contain no sugar whatsoever, residual or returned. They are fruity, though.

Fruit without sweetness: Many wine shoppers confuse ‘fruity’ with ‘sweet.’ Actually, fruit flavors often romp around the palate without sweetness. Our ciders send rich fruit aromas to the nose. On the palate, fruity flavors are balanced with acidity and bitterness. Depending on your situation, you’ll know how much to describe and analyze aromas and flavors.  (Some people think elaborate sensory lingo is fun and interesting, some think it’s silly. We in the trade can’t work without sensory terms, but hurray for word-free enjoyment too.)

Bright acidity: We favor keen acid in our blends. We grow some remarkably acidic apple varieties that contribute this refreshing, cleansing, mouthwatering element to our ciders. On the palate, Summer is probably the most acid-dominant FH cider out there right now. Kingston Black, made from a bitter-sharp cider apple of that name, also flashes a razor acidity amongst its many fruity, herbal, floral charms.

Bitterness: An indispensable flavor element, a big deal in cider, a word with baggage. We like to tilt the acid-bitter balance differently in different FH blends, but neither element ever wimps out. On the palate, every FH cider stages its own lively contest between acidity and bitterness, full of refreshing sensation and fun little flavor riffs.

    The big deal is that tannins give bitterness to good ciders, tannins found only in certain cider apples. Such apples are common abroad, still rare in the U.S., because highly tannic varieties are valuable only for making fermented ciders. We grow our own, and we urge all our pals in the orchard business to plant some, either for sale to cidermakers, or for making their own signature ciders. There’s a world of delectable differences among bitter cider varieties, the places they grow best, the potential ways they can be used to make ciders unique to particular orchards, and so forth. But they’re all wrong for the teacher’s desk, and they won’t do pie.

Indirect, complex flavor: In ciders, most shoppers have learned to expect the blatant apple flavors common to large-volume brands. Farnum Hill’s driest ciders are rife with varied fruit flavors — just as dry wines can be. The ‘apple’ in our ciders is like the ‘grape’ in fine dry wines: subtle and tricky in delicious ways. Lately the wine-and-beverage press has stopped criticizing ciders that don’t shout ‘apple,’ and started appreciating them (as, decades ago, America learned to appreciate wines that don’t shout ‘grape.’) And tannins, besides bitterness, lend all kinds and degrees of savor and pleasant funkiness to the fun, just as they do in wines.

Bracing ‘mouthfeel,’ appetizing finish: Tannins give not just flavor, but also body and astringency to good ciders. Astringency is a tightening, drying sensation that can be soft and fine-grained at one extreme, rough and puckery at the other. Red-wine fanciers already pay attention to tannins. Cider explorers soon learn that tannic cider apples can make a blond beverage that, like red wine, should not be chilled too far. (Generally speaking, “Serve Ice Cold” translates to “Kill the Taste,” often for good reason.)     

FHC’s tannic structure and acid balance give refreshment at temperatures that let full flavor bloom. They also give each of our ciders its own clean, fruity, upbeat finish, which in turn brightens the pleasures of food.

Basically, we think every cider in the U.S. helps build the market for all ciders in the U.S.  Thanks to Prohibition, today’s cider is very new in the States, with plenty of room to expand and elaborate. As with other beverages, cider choices range from mass-market over to limited, land-based labels like Farnum Hill. This is the seventh year Farnum Hill  ‘Summer Cider’ has been quietly, regionally recruiting new cider explorers. Recently, other ‘summer ciders’ have appeared. Cider is now nationally promoted for summer. Do the pioneers on Farnum Hill feel snarky? No, no, no. No! This is good for every cider. There’s room for all. Big-buck marketing, by anyone, helps us.

Back in 1999, both the trade and the public heard ‘cider’ and pictured delicious seasonal brown juice often linked to donuts. When people heard ‘hard cider’ they pictured  fizzy sweet fluid often linked with youthful excesses.

Now, the trade and knowledgeable consumers grasp  ‘cider’ as a category of alcoholic beverages offering various satisfactions at various prices, from sweet/fizzy/familiar onward toward dry/complex/singular/unfamiliar. Everyone else has at least loosened their personal definition of ‘cider.’ (These basic steps bring the cider market to about where the U.S. wine market stood in the 1960s, just before its rapid growth began.)

 More people will try entry-level ciders. More will become knowledgeable. People with discriminating tastes in wine or beer will learn that cider too offers manifold distinctions. And on we go.

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