The idea behind bringing the concept of “terroir” to ciders is a simple one: we can better build our appreciation for cider by understanding all the factors that provide variation of style and character across the different ciders. Additionally, if consumers had an expectation that ciders from a particular or vineyard would always possess a particular characteristic due to their fruit being grown in that region or vineyard, then they could more easily identify ciders likely to appeal to them.
As a community of cider enthusiasts and cidermakers we are not there yet. The question of terroir is peripheral as we continue to enjoy the challenge of understanding differing styles of cider as well as the contribution of its most basic component: cider apple varieties.
But this is not to say that terroir is complete disregarded. Take the example of Traditions Ciderworks. This second brand to the better known Oregon cidery 2 Towns Ciderhouse is bottling small batch, single-orchard vintage-dated ciders that conspicuously and purposefully draw our attention to the flavor, texture and aromatic characteristics that a particular pieces of land and location delivers to a cider.
Traditions Ciderworks sources apples from three orchards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a location in western Oregon that has proven to be a spectacular source for grapes, particularly Pinot Noir grapes. Currently, Traditions Ciderworks produces cider from the Riverwood Orchard, Afton Field and Amity Rose orchard.
It is particularly important to the quest to understand terroir in cider that bottlings are vintage dated, as Traditions Ciderworks has does with its ciders. To understand what a particular terroir lends a cider, it is important to try to segregate the various factors that contribute to a cider’s style, including cidermaking techniques, apple variety and vintage variation. This practice of vintage dating their ciders and only using apples from particular orchards bodes well for our quest to investigate terroir. Additionally, Traditions uses 100% Jonagold apples in its Riverwood Orchard bottling, another technique very helpful in focusing on the impact of the orchard’s terroir.
We reviewed all three of Tradition Ciderworks Single Orchard ciders and found all three to be delicious. Links to those three reviews are below. However, it will take a number of future vintages of tasting the ciders produced from these three vineyards to begin to come to conclusions about the nature of these orchards and the unique characteristics they deliver to ciders produced from their apples.