The Secret Message On Cider Bottles

It’s expressed in a variety of different ways:

Printing a “Batch #” or a”Lot #” on the label or printing it on the cork where it can’t be seen are just a few of the ways cideries get away communicating the harvest date of the apples that went into making a cider. They must be surreptitious about calling out the harvest date on a bottle of cider for the simple reason that a label that includes the year the apples were harvested won’t gain approval from the Federal government since it is illegal to place that information on the label of a cider. Many cideries, as a result, rely on their website to communicate this important information. While others get tricky.

Personally, I find it gratifying that many of those cideries that produced ciders with apples grown in a single year make the effort to communicate the harvest date, despite its illegality. Certainly knowing the cider’s age offers a real benefit to the drinker. Additionally, it’s fascinating to track how the weather in a given year changes the character of ciders that are produced year in and year out from the same source.

As an aside, I don’t use the more common term, “Vintage Date”. To my mind, it is simply too wine-centric a term (“Vin”) to be appropriate for cider produced from apples.

Of course, not all ciders need a harvest date on the package. Many are produced with concentrates that defy the impact of climate and terroir. In those cases, what I’d like to see cideries start doing is placing a “Bottling Date” on the cider just so I know how old or how fresh it is when I open it.

Before harvest dates can be prominently and legally placed on ciders, there will have to be a change in federal law, and that means getting Congress up to the task. That job will likely fall on the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM). It was notable that in an article at VinePair late last year it was revealed that “the next big push on its (USACM) list is getting cider on a more level playing field with wine through vintage designation.”

Until they are successful, cider drinkers will simply have to seek out the various types of clues cideries place on their bottles.

3 Responses to “The Secret Message On Cider Bottles”

  1. Kate

    I am seeing harvest years written on many cider labels, and even printed on some. I too see the benefit of it. For one, it tells me the end product may be slightly different then I trtied before (or the same as I tried before).

    There also seems to be a number of cidermakers producing a range of ciders under one single name (for example, Farnum Hill Dooryard), which I think is interesting, as long as there is information given to that point. Its unfortunate to have enjoyed a cider, so I buy it again, only to have a completely different product the second time around which isn’t something I enjoy (vs. just some small year to year variance).

    Reply
  2. Liz Holtzclaw

    You may see a harvest date on a Cider that has a Certificate of exemption, and will also say “For sale in (state) only.”
    When I file COLAS for clients, 80% grape wines, I include a blanket statement that information, “including vintage date, may or may not be printed on corks, capsules or closures.”
    Yesterday the TTB made me remove the vintage date reference from the statement for a fruit wine. Note that it was not on the label image.

    Reply
  3. Lore

    P.S. Dopo che ho letto questo post mi è balenata in mente un78;21&#idea: che il prossimo libro della Ragazza Drago non finisca per essere ambientato in qualche selvaggio luogo montano? Non vedo l’ora che arrivi lunedì per sapere qualcosa di più su questo progetto top secret, quante novità questo autunno!

    Reply

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