CLASSES

California Cider Competition and Mendocino Apple Show International Cider Competition

Administrators reserve the right to combine or collapse categories as needed to provide meaningful number of entries.

Varietal Ciders may be entered in any of the following classes: Modern, Heritage, or Traditional. 75% or more of the cider is made from the named apple variety, and the entire 75% of that named apple variety grown in the labeled appellation of origin (county or state). 

Standard Styles of Cider

1. Modern Cider
2. Heritage Cider
3. Traditional Cider
4. Sour Cider
5. Modern Perry
6. Traditional Perry

Specialty Styles of Cider

7. Fruit Cider 
8. Hopped Cider
9. Spiced Cider
10. Wood-Aged Cider
11. Specialty Cider and Perry
12. Unlimited Cider and Perry 

Intensified and Distilled Styles    

13. Ice Cider 
14. Fortified Cider 
15. Spirits

Labels

16. Label Competition
17. Other Packaging Competition

Standard Styles of Cider

1. Modern Cider

Modern ciders are generally made primarily from culinary or table apples. Compared to other Standard styles, these ciders are generally lower in tannin and higher in acidity.

Aroma/Flavor: Sweet or low-alcohol ciders may have apple aroma and flavor. Dry ciders will be more wine-like with some esters. Sugar and acidity should combine to give a refreshing character. Acidity is medium to high, refreshing, but must not be harsh or biting.

Appearance: Brilliant, pale to gold in color.

Mouthfeel: Medium body.

Overall Impression: A refreshing drink – not bland or watery. Sweet ciders must not be cloying. Dry ciders must not be too austere.

Varieties: Commonly grown varieties such as Winesap, Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonathan. Multi-use varieties (Northern Spy, Russets, Baldwin), crabapples, and any suitable wildings may also be used.

Vital Statistics: OG 1.045–1.075 FG 0.995–1.015 ABV 5–9%

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness level (typically medium, medium-sweet, or sweet). Entrants MAY specify apple variety or varieties; if specified, varietal character will be expected. IF the OG is substantially above typical range, entrant should explain e.g. particular variety of apple giving high-gravity juice.

2. Heritage Cider

Heritage Ciders are made primarily from multi-use or cider-specific bittersweet/bittersharp apples, with wild or crab apples sometimes used for acidity/tannin balance. These ciders will generally be higher in tannin than Modern Ciders. These ciders will generally lack the malolactic fermentation (MLF) flavor notes often found in Traditional Ciders from England or France. 

Aroma/Flavor: Sweet or low-alcohol ciders may have apple aroma and flavor. Dry ciders will be more wine-like with some esters. Sugar and acidity should combine to give a refreshing character. Acidity is medium to high, refreshing, but must not be harsh or biting.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant, yellow to gold in color.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Some tannin should be present for slight to moderate astringency, but little bitterness.

Overall Impression: A refreshing drink of some substance, not bland or watery. Sweet ciders must not be cloying. Dry ciders must not be too austere.

Comments: An ideal cider serves well as a “session” drink, and suitably accompanies a wide variety of food.

Varieties: Heritage: Multi-use (Northern Spy, Russets, Baldwin), cider-specific bittersweets and bittersharps, crabapples, any suitable wildings.

Vital Statistics: OG 1.050–1.075 FG 0.995–1.015 ABV 6–9%

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness level (typically medium, medium-sweet, or sweet). Entrants MAY specify apple variety or varieties; if specified, varietal character will be expected. IF the OG is substantially above typical range, entrant should explain e.g. particular variety of apple giving high-gravity juice.

3. Traditional Cider (English and French)

Traditional Ciders encompass those produced in the West Country of England (notably Somerset and Herefordshire), Northern France (notably Normandy and Brittany), and other regions in which cider-specific apple varieties and production techniques are used to achieve a profile similar to traditional English and French ciders.

Most ciders in the English style will be entered in the Traditional – Dry class (sweetness level is dry or medium-dry). Most ciders in the French style will be entered in the Traditional – Sweet class (sweetness level is medium, medium-sweet, or sweet). These levels indicate an overall tendency, not a sharp delineation between the sweetness of typical English and French ciders.

Introduction

  • English: This includes the English “West Country” ciders and other ciders inspired by that style. These ciders are made with bittersweet and bittersharp apple varieties cultivated specifically for cider making. English ciders are traditionally fermented and aged in wood barrels, which adds some character; however, the barrels used are rarely new, so there is no overt wood character.
     
  • French: This includes styles from Normandy and Brittany and other ciders inspired by those styles, including ciders made by various techniques to achieve the French flavor profile. These ciders are made with bittersweet and bittersharp apple varieties cultivated specifically for cider making.

    Traditional French procedures use small amounts of salt and calcium compounds (calcium chloride, calcium carbonate) to aid the process of pectin coagulation. These compounds may be used, pre-fermentation, but in limited quantity. It is a fault if judges can detect a salty or chalky taste. The enzyme PME (pectin methyl esterase) may also be used pre-fermentation for pectin coagulation.

Aroma/Flavor

  • English: No overt apple character, but various flavors and esters that suggest apples, particularly tannic varieties. English-style ciders commonly go through malolactic fermentation (MLF) which produces desirable spicy/smoky, phenolic, and farmyard/horse-y characters.

    These flavor notes are positive but not required. If present, they must not dominate; in particular, the phenolic and farmyard notes should not be heavy. A strong farmyard character without spicy/smoky or phenolic suggests a Brettanomyces contamination, which is a fault. Mousiness is a serious fault.
     
  • French: Fruity character/aroma. This may come from slow or arrested fermentation (in the French technique of défécation) or approximated by back-sweetening with juice. Tends to a rich fullness. MLF notes of spicy-smoky, phenolic, and farmyard are common but not required (just as with English style), and must not be pronounced. The French expect subtler MLF character than do the English.

Appearance

  • English: Barely cloudy to brilliant. Medium yellow to amber color.
  • French: Clear to brilliant, medium yellow to amber color.

Mouthfeel

  • English: Full. Moderate to high tannin, perceived as astringency and some bitterness. Carbonation still to moderate. Bottle-fermented or bottle-conditioned ciders may have high carbonation, up to champagne levels, but not gushing or foaming.
     
  • French: Typically made sweet to balance the tannin levels from the traditional apple varieties. Medium to sweet, full-bodied, rich. Medium to full, mouth-filling. Moderate tannin, perceived mainly as astringency. Carbonation moderate to champagne-like, but at higher levels it must not gush or foam.

Overall Impression

  • English: Generally dry, full-bodied, austere. Complex flavor profile, long finish.
     
  • French: Typically made sweet to balance the tannin levels from the traditional apple varieties. Medium to sweet, full-bodied, rich.

Comments

  • English: Sweet examples exist, but dry is most traditional, particularly when considering the drying contributions of tannin.
     
  • French: Typically made sweet to balance the tannin levels from the traditional apple varieties.

Entry Instructions

  • English: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness level (5 levels). Entrants MAY specify apple variety or varieties; if specified, varietal character will be expected.
     
  • French: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness level (typically medium, medium-sweet, or sweet). Entrants MAY specify apple variety or varieties; if specified, varietal character will be expected.

Varieties

  • English: Kingston Black, Stoke Red, Dabinett, Porter’s Perfection, Nehou, Yarlington Mill, Major, various Jerseys, etc.
     
  • French: Nehou, Muscadet de Dieppe, Reine des Pommes, Michelin, etc.

Vital Statistics

  • English: OG: 1.050 – 1.075 FG: 0.995 – 1.015 ABV: 6 – 9%
  • French: OG: 1.050 – 1.065 FG: 1.010 – 1.020 ABV: 3 – 6%

4. Sour Cider

Sour Ciders encompass those produced in Northern Spain (notably Asturias and the Basque Country) and other regions in which similar apple varieties and production techniques are used to achieve a profile similar to traditional Spanish ciders. In Asturias these ciders are known as sidra natural. In the Basque Country these ciders are known as sagardo naturala.

Modern styles of cider produced in this region (such as Nueva Expresión or Espumosa) that have lower levels of volatile acidity may be better entered in Modern Cider or Heritage Cider.

Introduction
Traditional Spanish cider is made primarily with sharp and semi-sharp local apple varieties. Each pressing takes 2-3 days to complete, and the tradition is to allow wild yeasts to ferment the cider, rather than using cultured yeasts. After pressing, the juice is pumped into chestnut barrels or stainless steel tanks. Traditional Spanish cider requires both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation (MLF) to reach completeness.

The traditional skill of pouring of cider in Asturias is unique. The bottle is held in one hand with the arm reaching as high as possible. The glass is held, at an angle, in the other hand with the arm stretched down as low as possible. The cider is carefully poured so that a thin stream of liquid drops from a height into the tip of the glass. Only a small amount of cider is poured, just enough to consume in a mouthful or two. The aim is to release carbon dioxide in the cider and to volatilize part of the acetic acid.

Aroma: Ciders from Asturias typically have fresh citric and floral aromas. Ciders from the Basque Country may also exhibit light spice, leather, and smoke aroma. Aged cheese and butter aromas may also be encountered, but any excess is undesirable.

Appearance: These ciders are unfiltered, so cloudiness is normal. Shaking the bottle before opening and pouring is recommended. The color for Asturian ciders should be straw yellow. The color for Basque ciders tends toward pale to deep gold. Amber or darker colors are considered faults.

Professional tasting competitions in Asturias require specific visual evaluations after the traditional pouring of the ciders.

  • Espalme – Foam must disappear quickly from the top of the cider.
  • Aguante – Refers to the carbon dioxide bubbles in cider. After traditional pouring, small bubbles disappear slowly, allowing just enough time to drink the cider in perfect condition.
  • Pegue – Refers to the thin film adhering to the sides of the glass after the cider has been drunk. It is viewed favorably.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied mouthfeel. No sweetness expected. Carbonation is light to moderate, depending on the height of the pour. Taste profile is acidic/tangy, citric/lemony, with little to no astringency or bitterness. Pleasant scratchy and tickly throat due to acetic acid is expected (often more intense in Basque ciders).

Overall Impression: Dry, fresh with lively acidity.

Varieties: Regona, Raxao, Limón Montés, Verdialona, De la Riega (Asturias). San Juan, Errezil, Gezamin, Moko (Basque Country).

Vital Statistics: ABV: 5 – 6.5%; VA (Volatile Acidity): 1-2 g/L

5. Modern Perry

Modern Perry is made from culinary/table pears.

Aroma/Flavor: There is a pear character, but not obviously fruity. It tends toward that of a young white wine. No bitterness. Appearance: Slightly cloudy to clear. Generally, quite pale.

Mouthfeel: Relatively full, low to moderate tannin apparent as astringency.

Overall Impression: Mild. Medium to medium-sweet. Still to lightly sparkling. Only very slight acetification is acceptable. Mousiness, ropy/oily characters are serious faults.

Comments: Some table pears may contain significant amounts of sorbitol, in which case a “dry” perry may give an impression of sweetness due to sorbitol in the pears. Perception of sorbitol as “sweet” is highly variable from one person to the next. Hence, entrants should specify sweetness according to actual residual sugar amount, and judges must be aware that they might perceive more sweetness than how the perry was entered.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation levels (3 levels) Entrants MUST specify sweetness (5 categories)

Varieties: Bartlett, Kiefer, Comice, Conference, etc. 

Vital Statistics: OG 1.050–1.075 FG 1.000–1.020 ABV 5–9%

6. Traditional Perry

Traditional Perry is made from pears grown specifically for that purpose rather than for eating or cooking. Many perry pears are nearly inedible due to high tannins; some are also quite hard. Perry pears may contain substantial amounts of sorbitol, a non-fermentable sweet-tasting compound. Hence a perry can be completely dry (no residual sugar) yet taste sweet.

Aroma/Flavor: There is a pear character, but not obviously fruity. It tends toward that of a young white wine. Some slight bitterness.

Appearance: Slightly cloudy to clear. Generally, quite pale.

Mouthfeel: Relatively full, moderate to high tannin apparent as astringency.

Overall Impression: Tannic. Medium to medium-sweet. Still to lightly sparkling. Only very slight acetification is acceptable. Mousiness and ropy/oily characters are serious faults.

Comments: Note that a “dry” perry may give an impression of sweetness due to sorbitol in the pears, and perception of sorbitol as “sweet” is highly variable from one person to the next. Hence entrants should specify sweetness according to actual residual sugar amount, and judges must be aware that they might perceive more sweetness than how the perry was entered.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness (5 categories). Entrants MUST state variety of pear(s) used if known.

Varieties: Butt, Gin, Brandy, Barland, Blakeney Red, Thorn, Moorcroft, etc.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.050 – 1.070 FG: 1.000 – 1.020 ABV: 5 – 9%

Specialty Styles of Cider

7. Fruit Cider

Fruit cider is cider with other fruits or fruit-juices added – including, berry, quince, rhubarb, pumpkin. Note that a “cider” made from a combination of apple and pear juice would be entered in this category since it is neither cider nor perry.

Aroma/Flavor: The cider character must be present and must fit with the other fruits. It is a fault if the added fruit(s) completely dominate; a judge might ask, “Would this be different if neutral spirits replaced the cider?” A fruit cider should not be like an alco-pop. Oxidation is a fault.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant. Color appropriate to added fruit, but should not show oxidation characteristics. (For example, red berries should give red-to-purple color, not orange.)

Mouthfeel: Substantial. May be significantly tannic, depending on fruit added.

Overall Impression: Like a white wine with complex flavors. The apple character must marry with the added fruit so that neither one dominates the other.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness levels (5 categories). Entrants MUST specify all spices added. Entrants MUST specify all fruits(s) and/or fruit juices including other non-fruit agricultural product(s) such as pumpkin, rhubarb.

Vital Statistics: OG 1.045–1.075 FG 0.995–1.010 ABV 5–9%

8. Hopped Cider

Hopped Ciders are ciders with added hops. Ciders with other added herbal or botanical elements (lemongrass, flower petals, tea blends, etc.) should be entered in Specialty Cider and Perry.

Aroma/Flavor: The cider character must be present and must fit with the hops. As with a Fruit Cider, it is a fault if the hops dominate; a judge might ask, “Would this be different if neutral spirits replaced the cider?” Oxidation of either the base cider or the hop additions is a fault.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant. 

Mouthfeel: Average or more. Cider may be tannic from effect of botanicals but must not be overly bitter

Overall Impression: Like a white wine with complex flavors. The apple character must marry with the hops and give a balanced result.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness levels (5 categories). Entrants MUST specify the variety of hops used if known.

Vital Statistics: OG 1.045–1.070 FG 0.995–1.010 ABV 5–9%

9. Spiced Cider

Spiced cider is a cider with any combination of spices added, such as “apple pie” spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). Ciders with ginger are included in this category.

Aroma/Flavor: The cider character must be present and must fit with the spices. As with a fruit cider, it is a fault if the spices dominate; a judge might ask, “Would this be different if neutral spirits replaced the cider?” Oxidation of either the base cider or the additions is a fault.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant. Color appropriate to added spices.

Mouthfeel: Average or more. Cider may be tannic from effect of spices but must not be bitter from over-extraction.

Overall Impression: Like a white wine with complex flavors. The apple character must marry with the spices and give a balanced result.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness levels (5 categories). Entrants MUST specify all spices added.

Vital Statistics: OG 1.045–1.070 FG 0.995–1.010 ABV 5–9%

10. Wood-Aged Cider

Wood fermented or wood aged ciders in which the wood/barrel character, or the liquid previously stored in the barrel, is a notable part of the overall flavor profile. Cubes, chips, spirals, staves, and other alternatives may be used in place of barrels. 

  • Use of newer wood that has not reached a flavor‐neutral condition, either as storage vessels or as batch additions such as wood chips, is now generally considered to be a stylistic option for adding to the complexity of the flavor of a cider or perry and an added element to mouthfeel.
  • If the wood holds the flavor of another liquid (beer, wine, spirits) or another flavored substance with which it has been in contact, or if wood is used in conjunction with another liquid or flavored substance to produce the same effect, then this is an appropriate category for such cider.
  • There is a wide continuum of intensity of flavor based on proportion of wood used to the cider or perry and previous use of the wood. There may also be significant subtlety in flavors in a base cider. Consequently, subtlety of wood and/or beer/wine/spirit notes will not be regarded as a fault provided they are detectable, recognizable, and balanced well with the base cider.

Aroma/Flavor: The cider character must always be present, and must fit with wood/barrel character.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant. Color should be that of a standard cider unless wood/barrel character is expected to contribute color.

Mouthfeel: Average body, may show tannic (astringent) or heavy body as determined by wood/barrel character.

Entry Instructions: Entrants must specify all ingredients. Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness levels (5 categories).

Vital Statistics: OG 1.045–1.100 FG 0.995–1.020 ABV 5–12%

11. Specialty Cider and Perry

Specialty Cider and Perry is an open-ended category for cider or perry with added ingredients or special processes that do not fit an existing category. A cider or perry that combines elements of two or more categories—such as a cider with added fruit and added hops—is best entered in this category. A cider or perry with added sweeteners (such as honey or molasses) may be entered here so long as the cider or perry character remains dominant.

Aroma/Flavor
The cider character must always be present, and must fit with added ingredients.

Appearance: Clear to brilliant. Color should be that of a Standard cider unless other ingredients are expected to contribute color.

Mouthfeel: Average body, may show tannic (astringent) or heavy body as determined by other ingredients.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify all ingredients. Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels). Entrants MUST specify sweetness (5 categories).

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.045 – 1.100 FG: 0.995 – 1.020 ABV: 5 – 12%

12. Unlimited Cider and Perry 

Unlimited Cider and Perry encompasses products that may approximate a Standard cider or perry, but by ingredients are more appropriately considered a Specialty cider or perry.

This category is for mass-market products that use modern production techniques such as high brix fermentation, amelioration, and flavorings. Unlike a Standard cider or perry, these products will have carbonated water, malic acid, natural flavors, artificial flavors, and similar ingredients listed on the label.

Entries in this category are exempt from testing for 85% minimum juice content.

Intensified and Distilled Styles

13. Ice Cider 

Ice Cider is a style that originated in Quebec in the 1990s. Juice is concentrated before fermentation, either by freezing the fruit before pressing it, or by freezing the juice and then removing water as it thaws. The fermentation stops or is arrested before the cider reaches dryness. No additives are permitted in this style; in particular, sweeteners may not be used to increase gravity.

The character differs from a chaptalized cider (applewine) in that the ice cider process increases not only the sugar (hence alcohol) but also the acidity and all fruit flavor components proportionately.

Aroma/Flavor: Fruity, smooth, sweet-tart. Acidity must be enough to prevent it being cloying.

Appearance: Brilliant. Color is deeper than a Standard cider, gold to amber.

Mouthfeel: Full body. May be tannic (astringent and/or bitter) but this should be slight, to moderate at most.

Entry Instructions: Entrants MUST specify starting gravity, final gravity or residual sugar, and alcohol level. Entrants MUST specify carbonation level (3 levels).

Varieties: Usually North American classic table fruit such as McIntosh or Cortland.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.130 – 1.180 FG: 1.060 – 1.085 ABV: 7 – 13%

14. Fortified Cider 

COMMERCIAL DIVISION ONLY

Cider that has been strengthened in alcohol (and aroma and flavor) after fermentation by the addition of spirits is generally called Fortified Cider. A cider fortified with apple spirits is known in France as pommeau. Fortified Cider encompasses pommeau, products made in a style similar to pommeau, and other products that emulate fortified wine styles such as port, sherry, or vermouth but are made with a base of apples and/or pears rather than grapes.

Spirits used for fortification do not have to be distilled by the entrant. Noncommercial producers may not legally fortify their ciders in North America and are excluded from entering this category.

A range of sweetness is possible by choosing how far into primary fermentation to add the spirits. At the sweeter end of the range with high residual sugar lies pommeau. Originally from Normandy, pommeau is essentially a blend of apple brandy with apple juice. The juice is typically fermented as little as local jurisdiction will allow.

Such a beverage is in general called a mistelle. Sweet vermouth is a mistelle with herb flavoring. The pear equivalent may be made but has no recognized traditional name. A cider that has been allowed to ferment mostly or completely to dryness before the spirit addition will be much less fruity. Such a cider is known to some as royal cider.

Fortified ciders and perry should be made with wine spirits (white) or brandy (oak aged) of the same kind of fruit. The spirits should not be neutral. Use of neutral or other fruit spirits must be declared and creates a specialty product that would be better entered in Specialty Cider and Perry.

Whether sweet or dry, the object of a Fortified Cider is to create a very full-flavored, heavy-bodied, bigger-than-life profile—but not as intense as an ice cider. They are well suited to after-dinner aperitifs and use in cocktails. Fruit should be forward. Acidity is well balanced and juice-like. Fermentation/yeast character reserved. Spirits evident and warming, not harsh. Spirit ‘headiness’ would be a fault. Tannins may run the spectrum—but shouldn’t be distracting.

Oak aging of spirits and/or final product is allowable. As such, some oxidation character is allowable, if balanced with the oak and barrel profile.

15. Spirits

COMMERCIAL DIVISION ONLY

Spirits encompass distilled apple and/or pear products. Unaged spirits are typically known as eau de vie and aged spirits are typically known as brandy.

Cider that is concentrated by freezing after fermentation (often known as applejack) includes concentrated heads and tails and is excluded from this competition due to adverse effects related to toxicity.

Eau de vie

Eau de vie (EDV) is white, non-oak-aged brandy. It usually ranges from 60 to about 100 proof, though products under 80 proof are uncommon in the US. Imported examples bear special labels. Eaux de vie are often drunk as a digestif, like grappa. For either apple or pear, the spirit should be round in the mouth and free of heads (acetates and aldehydes – nail polish remover) or tails (fusel oils, often stemmy or fuel-like, they bead in an empty glass, and are most evident as smell in an emptied glass).

Apple EDV are usually subtle on the fruit and may carry a hint of spice. Varietal character may be difficult to discern, and could be a feature. Overt apple character should raise concerns. Pear EDV, on the other hand may be heavily aromatic to the point of perfume. Pear spirits often bear a subtle spicy aftertaste which should linger a long time. Bartlett pear is readily identifiable.

Brandy

In general, oak aged brandies follow the same guidelines as eau de vie. Head and tail characters are faults. Apple is subtle, pear more overt. Barrel character may range from toasted wine barrel (toast and coconut, light yellow color) to charred whisky barrel (smoke, spice, dark amber color) – but you should be able to taste the barrel.

Apple brandies fall into two main camps – Calvados (France) and Applejack (Mid-Atlantic United States). Entries must declare whether it is a calvados or an applejack style brandy. (Applejack brandy is not to be confused with cider that has been concentrated by freezing, as mentioned above.)

Calvados is fermented from a French style cider and is dominated by the wild fermentation flavors. These accent the heads. They can give a green apple impression to some tasters, but commercial samples are often excellent candidates to illustrate acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate and (rarely) diacetyl. A calvados-style apple brandy should be heady, and should have muted barrel character.

American apple brandies / applejacks should not evidence heads, but rounded, generic apple or apple blossom flavors and aroma, varietal character being a plus, some spiciness is acceptable, partnered with smooth barrel character that shouldn’t overwhelm.

Labels

16. Label Competition

17. Other Packaging Competition

Good Luck!

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