Real Irish Cider
is a nice phrase. But does it have any meaning? Who
defines what real cider is, or what Irish cider is, or even what cider
is? Does anyone actually make real Irish cider?
For us at The Apple Farm, where we make Con’s, Real Irish Cider is made and bottled in its entirety in Ireland using the juice of Irish-grown apples, without the routine addition of either water or sugar.
Simple you might say, but also unusual.
Unlike wine, which must be made using grapes, cider is made in industrial quantities using water (often 70% or more) apple juice or apple juice concentrate, and lots of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. That the word cider is used to describe such concoctions is a debasement of the term, and so some artisan cider makers are trying to reclaim the meaning of the word by defining their products as Real Cider.
Real cider is typically used to describe ciders made with minimal addition of added sugar and water, so that the apple content is at least 85% of the final volume in the bottle. The reason that the 85% figure is used is that in occasional years, when apples are high in sugar, the resulting cider might be a little too high in alcohol, and to get them down to the desired level, a maximum of 15% water is used.
Real cider therefore, can be defined as cider made in such a way that the product contains at least 85% apple, and ideally is 100% apple.
Buyer beware though, as the term Real Cider is not legally defined, and it is possible that someone adding much more sugar and water could hijack the term.
In the same way that the term “Irish” is misused in the food industry, so too can it be abused in the drinks industry. It is possible to buy mass-market Irish ciders made in Ireland with imported apples, and to buy what the makers call “artisan” ciders made using Irish apples, but bottled (and even fermented) outside Ireland. To us at Con’s Irish cider is cider made and bottled here in Ireland, using apples grown in Ireland. If others are not explicit in saying that their cider is made in Ireland using Irish apples, then it probably isn’t.
Real Irish Cider
Which brings us to the terms we use on Con’s bottles, which taken together say “Real Irish Cider”. And the best definition I can come up with is “cider made and bottled in its entirety in Ireland using the juice of Irish-grown apples, without the routine addition of either water or sugar.” If you buy our cider that is what you will get, this time and every time. And if you wonder why it costs a bit more, or tastes more of apples, just remember what you are comparing it against. Slainte.