Wine vs Cider—An Exploration Beginning in Berkeley
My continued exploration of hard cider here at Fermentation is a bit of an experiment as much as it is a personal pursuit. What I wonder as I mix reviews and posts on Cider with my coverage of wine is the extent to which there is any interest in cider among the primarily hard-core wine folks that have read this blog for the past nine years. The jury is out.
However, on April 26 I will get a first hand look at the kind of people who are likely to have a keen interest in Cider when I attend The Berkeley Cider Summit.
Roughly 35 different producers and importers of Cider will collectively be pouring 100 different ciders for what I expect will be a very eager, interested and excited band of primarily youngish people (at least compared with the average age of those who attend wine-related events and pourings).
The Cideries pouring at the Berkeley Cider Summit represent some of the most recognized craft cider producers in the country and abroad, while a few of the larger, more commercial producers of cider will also be in attendance.
There are some interesting and significant differences between this cider tasting event and most wine events I’ve attended. First, for the $25 entry fee, one received 8 “tasting tickets”. Whether this means one can taste through all the ciders being poured at 8 different tables or if it means one can use their 8 tickets to taste 8 different ciders is unknown. One can purchase additional tickets for $2 a piece. I’m assuming a tasting ticket allows one to sample all ciders at a given table. Given the 100 different ciders, non one is going to spend an additional $185 to taste through another 92 ciders after using tickets on the first eight.
I don’t ever recall a wine tasting event distributing tickets that one exchanges for tastes. And it’s not a good idea to do so either. The reason is that the cideries at the Summit have an interest in seeing as many people as possible at the event.
Another interesting different between this and the wine events I regularly attend is the reported 4 ounce pours that one will receive of each cider. If you are interested in actually tasting, rather than drinking, then a 4 ounce pour of 100 ciders (the equivalent of nearly thirty-five 12-oz bottles) will largely go to waste as the last 3 ounces are poured out. It makes much more sense to me to up the price to a $50 or $60 entry free, have cideries dole out 1 oz pours and be done with the tickets.
These kind of questions my sound petty or inconsequential, but they to the issue of whether I’m about to attend a “Tasting” or a “Drinking”. This, in turn, goes to the issue of what kind of commercial and aficionado cultures will eventually be cultivated around cider and its ongoing renaissance.
All this said, I’m very excited about the Berkeley Cider Summit. There are Cideries that will be in attendance that I am anticipating highly including: Virtue Cider from MI, Tilted Shed Ciderworks from Forestville, CA, Reverend Nat’s from Portland, Eden Ice Cider from VT, Pacific Coast Cider from Walnut Creek, CA, and Farnum Hill from NH—just to name a few.
I’ve discovered that there exist a number Cider Geeks across the country who have a supreme interest in craft cider and who excite in exploring the differences in styles, apple varieties, regional differences among ciders, apple terroir, cidermaking methods, and the personalities behind the growing cider movement. These folks will be out in force in Berkeley. I want to know more about these people as much as I want to discover new ciders. I want to know what the high-end cider drinker thinks about and how they talk and what they expect.
At this point, I don’t think there is much of a threat to the wine market from the rising cider market. They are different drinks with vastly different cultures and vastly different audiences and vastly different cost and pricing structures. Cider is a far more accessible drink than wine and the very highest quality ciders are easily accessible to consumers both in terms of access and price. This cannot be said about wine.
Additionally, I’m inclined to believe that most wine drinkers might look down on cider as a pedestrian beverage, preventing them from appreciating their subtleties, differences, complexities and stories in the same way they do with wine.
All this said, there is a remarkable rising tide in the world of cider and in the cider marketplace. The big beverage companies know this. Alcohol retailers know this. Restaurateurs know this. And the media is beginning to understand this too. My guess is that this will not be the last cider tasting (drinking?) event I attend in the Bay Area.