It is an occupational hazard of the cider aficionado to have to confront the wine snob who instinctively turns their nose up at cider. Turn the average wine snob on cider in their most lucid moments and you are more than likely to hear something like, “I don’t drink cider” or “I’m not into simple sugars”. How can this bias be overcome?
First let me qualify what I mean when I refer to the “wine snob”. I’ve worked in the wine industry for more than two decades and have regularly come in contact with this species of wine love. In general they tend to believe that wine and only wine can rise to great aesthetic heights. They have a good knowledge of wine, but tend to gravitate toward hard and fast rules as to what makes a wine good and what characteristics make a wine bad. Too often they are label drinkers, but not always. Most importantly, they tend to be dismissive of tastes that don’t match their own. They can be obnoxious.
However, the frequent distaste for cider and the idea of cider they show can be overcome. Some who understand and appreciate the diversity and complexity and cultural importance of cider might ask, “what’s the point of trying to convert the wine snob?” The question is legitimate, if not a little disdainful. The answer is this: The more people drinking fine craft cider, the more fine craft cider that will be produced. And that’s good for everyone.
Following are the best tactics for converting the wine snob to cider
1. Meet and Exceed Their Expectations
The Wine Snob will likely expect one thing from cider: sweet. When pouring cider for them meet that expectation, but then move beyond it. Show them a very sweet cider (probably a commercial brand), but only serve it alongside a much drier, more complex, balanced cider.
2. Give Them Texture
Wine snobs are accustomed to examining the textural components of wine and speak a lot about the acids and tannin in wine. Open a cider that delivers a more forward tannic profile. This will be unexpected. It will also be familiar.
3. Show Them Variety
Wine Snobs deal in “Varietals”, that is: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Albarino, Pinot Noir—wines made from a single varietal. They likely have no idea that there are many single varietal ciders. Once shown a cider produced primarily from the Baldwin or Gravenstein or Kingston Black or Newtown Pippin, they will have a familiar context in which to understand cider and likely appreciate the drink much more.
4. Show them the Territory
“Terroir”. It is the organizing principle for any self-respecting wine snob. They understand wine in the context of where the grapes were grown and the wine culture of that region. When you introduce the wine snob to cider, make point of emphasizing that the apples were grown in a very specific place where certain apples rise to particular quality. Show them the Up-State New York Cider, then the Virginia Cider, then the Sonoma County Cider, then the cider from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Extra points are gained for showing them cider made from apples grown in recognized winemaking regions like the Willamette Valley, Sonoma County or the Finger Lakes region of New York.
I don’t mind the wine snob. In fact, I use the term lovingly. For all the snobs that act pretentious and dismissive and boorish, you’ll find snobs that possess a genuine love and fascination with wine and its culture. That same love and fascination they possess for wine can be turned on cider for all the reasons they admire the fruit of the vine.
All it takes to turn them is demonstrating that cider is much more like wine than it is beer, made like wine and can often in its craft form possesses the same complexities and delights as wine.