A Juicy Tale.....
If you drive around Herefordshire you see a lot of recently planted bush cider apple orchards. Many of these have been established during the boom years in the early 2000’s.
I can’t help but feel that there will be considerable oversupply in coming seasons.
In fact this last season (2017) there was plenty of anecdotal evidence of some of the larger cider producers rejecting some of the crop because of oversupply.
At first sight this appears great news for cider producers as it means fruit costs are kept low. In fact it’s the very worst scenario. There should be rewards for growers sufficient to encourage them to maintain and establish productive orchards. This is a long term commitment requiring investment and nerve and needs to be financially sustainable with a reasonable return for the grower. Poor returns will in the long term discourage investment and harm the overall industry.
Cider making has suffered from a consistent dumbing down of the drink. Under current legislation a producer need only use 25-35% apple juice or reconstituted apple juice concentrate which may originate from anywhere in the world. The next question I am sure you are asking is what else goes into my cider if it’s not apple juice? Well the 35% apple juice is not enough to ferment into sufficient alcohol so there is a need to add more sugar to supplement the sugars from apples. Typically this additional fermentable sugar comes from glucose syrup, a widely available traded commodity which is a lot cheaper than buying apples and pressing them.
The knock on effect of using glucose syrup and other sugars for fermentation means that the cost of apples is inextricably linked to the glucose syrup price and therefore suppressed.
Which means that in periods of oversupply, it is often not worth the growers’ time and effort; consequently orchards are grubbed up. Leading later to an undersupply of fruit for those cider makers like ourselves that use only apples.
I often think of the wine industry in countries like France; imagine the uproar if only 35% grapes were used in a Claret.
So in my view there needs to be legislative change to support a tightening of the definition of cider and to introduce labelling (detailing the percentage of apple juice) that makes it clear to consumers whether the cider maker is using only apple juice as a fermentable sugar rather than apple juice and glucose.