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Fortified Cider

Cider that has been strengthened in alcohol (and aroma and flavor) after fermentation by the addition of spirits is generally called Fortified Cider. A cider fortified with apple spirits is known in France as pommeau. Fortified Cider encompasses pommeau, products made in a style similar to pommeau, and other products that emulate fortified wine styles such as port, sherry, or vermouth but are made with a base of apples and/or pears rather than grapes.

Spirits used for fortification do not have to be distilled by the entrant. Noncommercial producers may not legally fortify their wines in North America and are excluded from entering this category.

A range of sweetness is possible by choosing how far into primary fermentation to add the spirits. At the sweeter end of the range with high residual sugar lies pommeau. Originally from Normandy, pommeau is essentially a blend of apple brandy with apple juice. The juice is typically fermented as little as local jurisdiction will allow.

Such a beverage is in general called a mistelle. Sweet vermouth is a mistelle with herb flavoring. The pear equivalent may be made but has no recognized traditional name. A cider that has been allowed to ferment mostly or completely to dryness before the spirit addition will be much less fruity. Such a cider is known to some as royal cider.

Fortified ciders and perry should be made with wine spirits (white) or brandy (oak aged) of the same kind of fruit. The spirits should not be neutral. Use of neutral or other fruit spirits must be declared and creates a specialty product that would be better entered in Specialty Cider and Perry.

Whether sweet or dry, the object of a Fortified Cider is to create a very full-flavored, heavy-bodied, bigger-than-life profile—but not as intense as an ice cider. They are well suited to after-dinner aperitifs and use in cocktails. Fruit should be forward. Acidity is well balanced and juice-like. Fermentation/yeast character reserved. Spirits evident and warming, not harsh. Spirit ‘headiness’ would be a fault. Tannins may run the spectrum—but shouldn’t be distracting.

Oak aging of spirits and/or final product is allowable. As such, some oxidation character is allowable, if balanced with the oak and barrel profile.