by Sally Colby
You’ve made a fantastic cider with a carefully chosen blend of apples and your friends and family think it’s great. Will it sell itself based on the words you’ve selected to describe it?
Tanya Lamo, Hard Cider Extension Assistant, Penn State Extension, says that much of what she has learned about hard cider has come from reading labels and descriptions.
“There are some descriptions that make me want to buy it right away because they sound so amazing,” said Lamo. “There are others that pretty much just list which apples are in the cider. I might be a little interested in those, but not enticed enough to purchase those.”
Taking the time for careful, concise wordsmithing for cider products helps sell not only the product, but the passion that went into creating it.
Lamo used a selection of words to describe some of the terminology that entices cider drinkers to try certain products. Appearance is often the first impression after the cider is poured and color is the first aspect that’s noticeable. “Most cider is some shade of yellow or brown,” said Lamo. “It’s okay if you say ‘yellow’ as it comes out of the bottle, but you can describe yellow in many different ways.”
As the cider is poured into the glass, think about the word ‘yellow’ or ‘brown’ and whether those words accurately describe what’s appearing in the glass. Terms such as straw, golden, chartreuse, pale, amber, clear, bright, muted, still and sparkling help define the color and appearance more clearly.
Another descriptor for appearance is effervesce — cider might be foamy, bubbly, sparking or still. Do the bubbles last for more than a few tips of the glass? Viscosity, or the trait that causes ‘tears’ to form on the sides of the glass with a swirl, is also important to note. Are the bubbles soft and tiny or are they medium-sized? “It’s good to give the customer as much information as you can,” said Lamo. “Make it something they want to try.”
Once cider is in the glass, the aroma becomes the next sensory aspect. Swirl the glass, allow the aromas to be fully released, then inhale and take time to think about what olfactory triggers are most noticeable. Does the cider smell fruity, grassy, spicy, woody or sweet? Does the aroma immediately evoke a sense of anything pleasantly memorable, such as new-mown hay or a meadow of wildflowers? Each person’s sense of smell is unique, but it’s possible to zero in on categories for an individual cider and use appropriate descriptors for it.
“There are also enhancement words for aroma to spice up what you’re saying about it,” said Lamo. “Hints of, a tease of, blend, deep, strong on the nose, shares the stage with, bloom — these words all enhance the description.”
After the aroma awakens the taste buds, the tasting process distinguishes between sweet, sour, bitter and salty. “These describe the flavor sensation as it moves across your mouth,” said Lamo. “Again, it’s good to teach your customers what to look for. There are some words you can use to describe the taste like citrus, pear, herbal, fruity, pineapple.” Other enhancement words such as deep, strong, tease of, explosion, organic, ripe, muted and brilliant help define the taste.
Mouthfeel is an important aspect of the tasting process and there are numerous terms to describe the sensation. Is the cider soft, chalky, warming, creamy, buttery, crisp or silky? The finish describes how long the cider taste remains in the mouth — is it short and leaves quickly or is it long and savory?
Texture is another aspect of cider and is related to the ‘weight’ as it moves in the mouth. A cider can feel thick or heavy or it may feel thin and watery on the palate. Desirable terms can range greatly from silky and smooth to hot and fiery. Some cider tasters get the impression of chalkiness, prickling, fizziness or even dustiness as the cider moves in their mouth.
Other cider descriptors that can be included in a brief label or website description include refreshing, barrel-aged, heirloom, vintage, unique, sugary, whisky and unfiltered.
Lamo references Eve’s Cidery in New York as having some of the most creative descriptions for ciders. Eve’s describes their 2014 Albee Hill still dry cider as, “Beeswax, sage smoke, petrol and stone fruit on the nose. A soft and chalky mouthfeel with flavors of peaches, limes and leather. The finely balanced finish is warm and dusty with rich espresso, tart apricots and more peaches.”
2015 Darling Creek, a semi-dry traditional method sparkling cider from Eve’s Cidery, includes the description, “The nose starts with ripe, ripe, red fruit which yields to complex aromas of apple blossoms, marzipan, cream soda and tamari. The palate is soft and full, reminiscent of white wine but with the juicy flavors of limeade and salted pretzels. The finish is red cherry preserves with vanilla bean and silty tannin for miles.”
Tasting plenty of ciders as well as paying close attention to your own impressions and the thoughts of others who try your cider when it’s in the early stages of development, along with using bold words, will help you create an accurate description for the label and your website.