Though we have addressed this issue before, it is worth repeating: It is important to the growing craft cider movement and to devotees of craft cider that cidermakers are legally able to place the harvest date on their bottles.
This issue arises once again for the Cider Journal after hearing from one of America’s best and most devoted cider makers that a label of theirs was rejected by the federal label approval process because it listed the harvest year on the back label. To the branch of the federal government that approves alcohol labels, listing the year during which the apples for a particular cider were harvested is considered a “false or misleading statement”.
This stems from the fact that nowhere in federal law does it explicitly state that a bottle of cider may carry a harvest or “vintage” date. Only wine merits an explicit mention of the conditions under which it may carry a vintage date.
Still, like wine, ciders will differ based on the character of the growing season in which they were grown. A cooler growing season might result in lower levels of sugar, resulting in lower alcohol levels and certainly in a different character of fruit, to name just on of the many ways weather impacts the character of the apples.
It turns out that cidermakers have the perfect vehicle to address the problem of harvest dates being prohibited on bottles of cider: The Cider Act.
The Cider Act is a bill that, if passed, would raise the threshold for both carbonation and alcohol in a cider before they are taxed at higher levels. These reforms are needed in order to both support and spur the growth of the American cider industry.
The Cider Act, known originally as H.R. 600, has been rolled into another bill entitled “the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act” (H.R. 2903) that would reduce excise taxes on a variety of alcoholic beverages as well as streamline regulations. IT WOULD BE VERY EASY TO AMEND H.R. 2903 TO INCLUDE A PROVISION THAT EXPLICITLY ALLOWS HARVEST DATES ON CIDER.
The best organization to affect this important change is the United States Association of Cider Makers, which is at work lobbying for passage of The Cider Act. It’s notable that there is no rational public policy or political reason not to attach a Harvest Date amendment to the bill. Put another way, no one opposes Harvest Dates on cider on principle.
To urge the United States Cider Association to take up the issue of amending The Cider Act to allow Harvest Dates on cider bottles email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them “please work to amend The Cider Act (H.R.2903) to allow Harvest Dates and appellations on bottles of cider”.
You can also email the main sponsor of the Cider Act, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenhauer, and ask him to do the same.