Apple Wine (Cider) in Europe

France produces about 400,000,000 gal. of cider per year. It is estimated England’s production at about 100,000,000 gal. per year. Germany produces and consumes a large amount of apple cider, presumably more than England but less than France.

In Switzerland good cider can be enjoyed in cafes and restaurants. Usually it is served light amber in color, nearly dry in taste, and mildly sparkling. To the Swiss, cider is about as popular as beer. Apples used for cider were not grown in orchards as in America, but often, the trees as scattered through the pastures or along the roadsides or in back yards. Some trees were very large and were apparently not pruned or well cared for.

Some of the English ciders are sweeter than the Swiss, although bone dry ciders are also produced. The preferred English apple varieties are high in tannin and sugar; they are called “bitter sweet” apples. Possibly, some of North America’s crab apple varieties resemble British cider apples in composition and flavor. One, the Rutleigh No. 14, averaged over a three year period 22.59° Balling, 0.34 per cent acid as malic and 0.296 per cent tannin. Kingston Black, a well known commercial variety, averaged 16.13° Balling, 0.55 per cent acid, and 0.110 per cent tannin. However, table apples as well as cider apples are used for cider making in England and Germany.
French cider is made in large quantities in the Coastal and Northern provinces, particularly in Normandy and Brittany. The apples are grown for that purpose as some are grown in Switzerland and England. The apples are low in acidity and high in tannin and sugars. The average composition of the juice of 11 varieties of Normandy cider apples: specific gravity 1.0725, solids 17.5 per cent, total acid 0.39 as malic, and tannin 0.262 per cent. The acidity often is only 0.30 per cent, and occasionally lower.

German cider apples are tart and of only medium sugar content. The average analysis are: specific gravity 1.053 to 1.039, solids 13.1 to 14.5 per cent, and acid as malic 0.59 to 0.82 per cent. No data are given on tannin content but it is said to be very low.Swiss cider apples are said to resemble the British in composition rather than the German.

In France, cider is made commercially about as follows. The apples are stored in bins for a few days to develop aroma. They are then washed, sorted to remove rots, crushed, and pressed in a rack and cloth press. In some cellars, the crushed apples are allowed to stand 3 to 24 hours before pressing, to develop color and flavor. The crushed fruit is allowed to drain during this period of maceration. It is then pressed, and is said to press very easily because of the maceration. To the juice is added metabisulfite or S02 to give 50 to 100 mg. S02 per liter and is cooled to 0° to 8° C. (32.0° to 46.4° F.) and allowed to settle until the juice becomes fairly clear through action of natural pectic enzymes. It is then racked and fermented with low temperature yeast at 40° to 50° F. Fermentation is slow at this low temperature, which the French consider necessary for satisfactory results.

The pomace is mixed with water and allowed to stand several hours and is pressed. Sugar may be added and the “juice” fermented for a low grade cider called cidre marchand. The pomace may be watered and pressed a second time to give petite cidre.

“Keeving” is very common in French cider factories. This operation consists in chilling the juice to a low temperature to prevent fermentation. It then clears naturally, forming a sediment and a cap, chapeau. The clear juice is drawn off from between the cap and sediment for fermentation.
A peculiarity of the French fermentation is the formation of a cap of pulp from the juice during fermentation (called Chapeau brun). When the primary fermentation is complete, the cider is drawn off from between the lees and the Chapeau brun. It then undergoes a slow secondary fermentation in casks at about 40° F. for several months, is racked, bottled, and develops additional gas in bottle. Usually it is not bone dry.
In some plants some of the juice is fermented completely. An equal quantity is filtered and stored at near the freezing point until the fermentation of the other cider is complete. The two are then blended and filtered to give a sweet, hard cider of rich, fresh apple flavor.

German cider apples average about 12.4° to 13.6° Balling. If a sweet cider is desired sugar may be added; if a nearly dry cider is desired no sugar is added. The pomace is not used ordinarily to make a watered cider. Some juices may require addition of an ammonium salt for yeast food. The fermentation is conducted about as in France but with pure selected cider yeast and in the presence of a small amount of SO2. Pear juice high in tannin is often added to make up for a deficiency of tannin in German apples, or tannin may be added.

England the preference is for a cider with considerable residual sugar. By fermenting at a low temperature and allowing the fermenting juice to froth out of the barrel, thus losing yeast, fermentation usually stops while considerable sugar remains. Rackings, and secondary fermentation are similar to those in France.
The Charmat process of making “Champagne cider” is in use in European cider factories. The process is as follows:

Naturally sweet ciders or sweetened dry ciders are used for the process. Filtered ciders are desirable, but in any case the juice is pasteurized by a large electrode in a steel, glass-lined tank, capable of being sealed and of withstanding much pressure. The sterile juice is then inoculated with an active culture of pure wine yeast, and the vessel hermetically sealed. The temperature is controlled to give the necessary degree of fermentation in about 7 to 10 days. During this time, the pressure in the tank increases to about 80 lb. per square inch and the slow evolution of C02 enables the cider and the C02 to become intimately associated together. When the pressure has increased to the desired figure, further fermentation is prevented by the cooling of the contents of the tank by means of cooling coils traversing the tank.

The cider is cooled to just above its freezing point for five days. The low temperature accelerates the deposition of yeast and coagulated matter, which settle to the bottom of the tank. The supernatant liquid is then filtered under isobarometric pressure through a special Charmat filter, consisting of a large number of woven cotton discs placed over a perforated steel bar and pressed extremely tightly together to form a filtering surface.

Only 3 to 4 weeks are needed for the process. A brilliantly clear sparkling cider of vinous character is obtained in which there is little fear of further deposit or haze occurring. In France and also in Switzerland this sparkling cider is dispensed from double walled metal containers. This equipment is known as “Frigi-bar.” The metal container is enamel lined. It is placed in an artificially cooled box on the retailer’s counter. The cider is drawn off under C02 pressure for serving.

One thought to “Apple Wine (Cider) in Europe”

  1. Hi
    Perhaps you can answer this question. I recently developed a chronic medical condition whereby I must severely restrict my consumption of phosphate containing products eg. meats and chesses. Prior to this my favourite beverage was beer however I was told that I could no longer imbibe in beer due to its phosphate content. My next most favourite beverage is cider (hard), however I have been unable to find information as to the content of phosphates which may (or may not) be a byproduct of fruit fermentation (I have found that sulphates are). I am not restricted from any other alcoholic beverages (wine [grapes], spirits) so I am a bit perplexed. Can you shed any light on this thus allowing me to imbibe in one of my pleasures or crossing it off my list?
    Brian L. Butcher

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