What’s The Difference Between Apple Wine And Apple Cider?

Jugs Of Apple Cider, Not Apple WineWhat is the difference between apple wine and apple cider? Is the recipe different? Is the manufacturing procedures different?

Name: Clifton C.
State: Texas
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Hello Clif,

Apple wine, apple cider and hard cider are sometimes used to mean the same thing by some people. There is no difference as to how some people use these terms. One person may say apple cider, meaning apple wine; someone else may say apple cider, meaning hard cider. And to make it more convoluted, sometimes apple cider means just plain ole apple juice.

So just what is the difference between apple wine and apple cider? The information below should help to clear this up:

  • Apple Cider: 
    In the United States, it means the same as apple juice. You can go to some markets in parts of the country and see apple juice and apple cider side by side. Some areas of the U.S. will make the distinction that apple juice has gone through filtration and pasteurization whereas apple cider has not. It is straight, raw apple juice.
  • Hard Cider: 
    This is apple juice or apple cider that has been allowed to ferment. The natural sugars in the apple juice ferment to an alcohol level that runs somewhere around 3% to 6%. It is interesting to note that in most English-speaking countries — other than the U.S. — hard cider is just called apple cider. It is assumed that if you have raw apple juice it has probably gone hard. Hard cider is very easy to make and can even be sparkled in beer bottles.
  • Apple Wine:  
    This is a hard apple juice as well, but it is much higher in alcohol. It is essentially apple juice that has gone through the same process as you would making wine. The acidity is adjusted. Nutrients are used. And, it is bottled and aged. But, most significant of all is sugar is added to the fermentation to bring up the final alcohol level of the apple wine. Most are around 10% to 12%. Try making apple wine yourself.

It is also helpful to understand that there is a difference between how apple wine and apple cider keep and age.

Hard cider needs to be consumed more quickly than apple wine. The lower level of alcohol makes it less stable. The use of sulfites and maybe even constant refrigeration will help in this regard, but even at that you will discover that apple cider is a drink that is to be consumed in weeks and months, not years.

Apple wine on the other hand is more stable. It has a higher alcohol content which makes it less susceptible to spoilage and general flavor deterioration. Having said this, you should still use sulfites when making it — just like you would with any other wine you make. And just like most wines, you will find that it will taste a little harsh at bottle time. It needs time to age out its harshness. Typically, an apple wine will be very drinkable at around 3 months of aging and at its best at around 9 months.

So, that’s essentially what the difference is between apple wine and apple cider. I hope this clears things up for you and that this was the information you was looking for.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

6 thoughts on “What’s The Difference Between Apple Wine And Apple Cider?

  1. Iam thinking of starting a batch of 6000ltr of apple cider in HDPE tanks.Is that ok with HDPE jars instead of glass or wooden kasks.I have apple juice concentrate with added sugar in stock.How shall i proceed ahead Mr. Kraus.

    • Karam, as long as the HDPE tank is marked as food grade it is fine to use for fermenting wine but not recommended for long term storage. The buckets that we sell are HDPE and marked with a number 2 in a triangle to indicate food grade.

  2. You are incorrect, especially regarding your definition of Apple Wine, and it’s an unfortunately misleading description that will give many readers the wrong idea about apple wine that is NOT produced with all of the horrific manipulations you suggest. At the core apple wine and cider are the same thing. Apple juice is just apple juice, which only came to be known as cider during the times of prohibition when the name was implemented as a suggestion of what one should do with their juice in the privacy of their own homes. The variations of the word cider the world over (cidre, sidra, etc) have always historically referenced the fermented beverage. Furthermore the term apple wine is intrinsically synonymous with cider (see the German cultures production of apfelwein). In the united states the regulatory bodies currently cap the maximum alcohol percentage of cider at 8.5%, so some producers whose ciders exceed such limits must categorize their cider as apple wine. This does not inherently mean, nor should it imply, that acid was adjusted, nutrients were used, or that sugar was added. There are many excellent cider worthy apples that ripen to levels that can EASILY produce ciders in excess of 8.5%. I myself have produced many natural ciders with such apples as Golden Russet that reached north of the 11% abv range. If any producers are making cider or apple wine with the use of such egregious techniques as you suggest they should be considered divergent from the basics of the true process. Please help prevent the promotion of such tactics as they are a scourge upon the evolution and betterment of quality cider our country is uniquely poised to attain.

  3. Although no wine expert me, I agree that anything that involves deviant, freak control, and chemical manipulation that steers from nature’s natural wisdom is not the path to a true endeavour.

    However I do appreciate eckruas’s still, with some discernment, useful info.

  4. I make apple wine from store bought apple juice that has been pasteurized, with no sugar added. So there is no way I would call this a cider in anyway shape or form. Cider is raw apple juice. It is not filtered or refined except from its natural skins seeds and stems. Most of its natural pulp remains in its juices and it is oxidized by the air which gives it its dark brassy color. Even if you used a wine yeast to pinch a cider and even added more sugar for a higher A.B.V. I would not call it a wine. I would call it hard cider yes. But not a wine. Cider juice can not even begin to compete as a wine. Against a clean clear apple juice pinched with a good wine yeast like Lalvin K1-1118. Your comparing apples to oranges here as far as I am concerned. One ranks as a wine, the other is a cider. So call them what you will. But to me only the refined apple juice deserves to be called a wine.

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