High phenolic/tannic varieties

As more is learnt above the French cidre/cider varieties some early information might help with evaluating them and considering how they might fit into the Australian cider scene.

English cider varieties are traditionally grouped into four classes: sweet, bittersweet, sharp and bittersharp. Naturally the French have varieties which come into these general classes also but they also have varieties which occupy more outlying classes, namely higher acid level types and higher tannic/phenolic types. This latter class is described as ‘amere’, translating as bitter. Australia appears to have two French varieties in this class, Frequin Rouge and de Boutteville.

Frequin Rouge

de Boutteville

Each has a degree of acidity from malic acid but their total phenolic levels far exceed the accepted levels for the bittersweet and bittersharp classes. For this reason they are unlikely to find a role as varietal ciders and more likely to be used as part of a blend. Incorporation of a proportion of juice from these varieties can be used to lift the average tannin level of a cider apple blend and hence move the blend further towards the traditional style. Similarly a proportion of juice could be used to introduce tannin into a cider being produced from dessert apples.

The level of tannin in the juice from these two varieties can be seen in the chart below. The bar on the left is the TPC (total phenolic compounds) for a conventional French bittersweet – Tardive de la Sarthe – followed by de Boutteville and Frequin Rouge.

The results above are based on analyses of 2022 fruit and it is hoped to re-run these analyses with fruit maturing in 2023. Whilst they are indicative of what can be expected it is desirable to have results from two or more seasons.

Early indications are that de Boutteville is also likely to have higher sugar levels than a number of other cider varieties. This may or may not be an advantage in relation to the cider being planned.

French Cidre/Cider apple varieties

At some unrecorded time in the past a number of French (cidre) cider apple varieties were imported into Australia. It’s not known who arranged the importation – or when – but fortunately these varieties became part of the apple germplasm collection which currently resides in Tasmania. In the event they slumbered in the Tasmanian collection for a long time because – having French names in an English speaking country – their significance was not recognised.

On the plus side the varieties which are considered to be true-to-type and which are consequently being publicised are likely to make a major contribution to cider apple growing in Australia. As well as expanding the range of bittersweet varieties there are also varieties with higher levels of tannins and malic acid than the more familiar English varieties.

Sad to say it hasn’t been all good news. Some of the French cider varieties in that collection appear to be incorrect (ie not true-to-type) in that they don’t obviously match the descriptions as outlined in the French reference publication “Pommiers a Cidre”, by Bore and Fleckinger. ‘Appear’ is the operative word as classifying them as incorrect is based on an assessment of various physical and botanical characteristics. It’s certainly possible that the characteristics can be different when growing and fruiting in Australia compared to when they are grown in their home climate and terroir of Normandy and Brittany. Until such time as they can be confirmed as correct they are not being given any publicity.

Hopefully both the confirmed and the doubtful varieties will eventually be able to be tested at a DNA level bringing a higher degree of confidence to their identity. Ideally this will also apply to the English cider varieties we have in Australia.

In an attempt to increase familiarity with the French cider varieties the names of the varieties have been traced back to what is believed to be the correct spellings and accents added to vowels where appropriate. These accents are important in determining the correct pronunciation of the names although they do not change the spelling when the names are written.

Thanks to Camille Chopineaux, masters student at The National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga for the spoken names and to Aphrika Gregson and Kevin Dodds of the NSW Department of Primary Industries for making the sound files available.


Assessing apple maturity

How do you know when your apples are ‘ripe’ and ready for crushing? There are various ‘rules of thumb’ for assessing the maturity of cider apples in order to commence harvest. These range from the colour of the seeds to the proportion of fruit that has dropped off the tree.

Sampling the apples for juice and then determining the specific gravity of the juice can be useful. Essentially these tests give a guide to the sugar content of the apples. This can be done on a small scale by cutting segments from apples and squeezing the juice out, or with a punch that extracts a small juice sample. The sugar content of the juice can then be assessed using a refractometer. On a larger scale, multiple apples can be crushed and the sugar content of the resultant juice assessed using a hydrometer.

Working with the juice as indicated above is a guide, but it doesn’t necessarily prove that all the starch within the apple has been converted to sugars. Use of an iodine (I) & potassium iodide (KI) solution to detect starch is a very convenient way to not only detect starch but to determine how far the conversion of the starch to sugar has progressed.

With the the starch iodide test it is possible to assess the starch content of fruit visually: https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/Research_Center/SWMREC/Apple_Maturity_Protocol.pdf

The starch iodide test approaches the assessment from the opposite perspective to the juice sampling. A solution of potassium iodide and iodine in water is applied to a transversely cut surface of the apple to be tested. The degree of blackening will show whether starch remains unconverted and how much. The pattern of the blackening varies with the apple cultivar. An absence of black indicates that all the starch has been converted.





There will be variation with apples picked from the tree. How critical the assessment is will determine how many fruit should be sampled from the tree, high or low, shaded or sunny, north or south etc. Images with four halves have, on the left, an apple that had fallen to the ground. 

This is also perhaps the time to mention an inherent difficulty with the apple sampling protocol. As the crop of any given cultivar’s apples ripen, an increasing number will fall to the ground and it is arguable that those apples remaining on the tree are probably by definition ‘less ripe’. Alternatively a fallen apple could have been squeezed off as other apples in its bunch expand. Depending on whether the crop is being hand picked or machine harvested will influence the decision to go ahead with harvest of that cultivar. Another old ‘rule-of thumb’ for deciding when to harvest was when 25-30% of the apples had fallen from the tree.

Bear in mind that not all producers will necessarily want to have apples going through to full ripeness. If the intended cider is to be made from 100% juice (ie no water dilution) and the target alcohol level is perhaps 4-5% it is likely that harvest will be initiated ahead of full apple ripeness.

Examples of the current season’s testing are linked below. Some of the images begin with two fruits and this was to try to capture the potential range/variation at the start of the sampling period. The fruit on the left was collected from the ground, that on the right from the tree. After that first sampling, all fruits were taken from the tree. The cultivars are listed in alphabetical order, not ripening order:


Sturmer Pippin is not thought of as a cider apple in its country of origin (Britain) but was a mainstay of the cider industry in Tasmania for many years and is still highly thought of for cider there and in other places within Australia.


Cider apples & “Black Spot”

Just like dessert apples, cider apples can get black spot (Venturia inaequalis) also know as apple scab.

Black spot on cv. Yarlington Mill

Black spot infection occurs when there is a combination of spores in the orchard environment and the plants are subject to periods of wetness in conjunction with temperatures favourable to development. Tables for this are available on the internet eg:


Protective fungicides and fungicides with a degree of curative action are available. The infection occurs on leaves and fruit and the extent to which they are affected varies between cultivars. My cider apple orchard is operated as an experimental block rather than a commercial operation. For this reason I often undertake management practices which are outside guidelines in order to gather more understanding of the cider cultivars.

This season I chose not to undertake a spray program for black spot and with the weather that was experienced not surprisingly there has been disease development. Assessment of the black spot has been via a subjective ranking of the degree of infection of the fruit, utilising a 0-10 scale where 0 is no fruit infected and 10 is virtually all fruit infected. Ranking was in whole numbers but averaging across multiple trees of the same cultivar has resulted in some ‘decimal’ ranks.

In considering these data be aware that it is for one season only. Therefore treat it as a guide to the behaviour of the cultivar, remembering that an appropriate spray program would probably see all cultivars ranked at 0. Similarly in a season less conducive to black spot development overall rankings would probably be lower.

From another perspective, the data could well be useful for someone considering a minimal spray orchard – or an organic operation – as it highlights those cultivars with inherent disease resistance.

For comparative purposes the table starts with dessert cultivars followed by the cider cultivars.

  Average rank
Granny Smith 10
Hi Early (Red Delicious cv) 5
Fuji 7
Gala 8
MM106 (rootstock cv.) 1
Blanchet 0
Brown Snout 0
Chataignier 0
Galopin 0
Improved Foxwhelp 0
Stoke Red 0
Sweet Coppin 0
Verite 0.17
Browns Apple 0.25
Cimetiere de Blangy 0.25
Foxwhelp 0.25
Michelin 0.25
Tardive de la Sarthe 0.25
Bulmer’s Norman 0.5
de Boutteville 0.5
Frequin Rouge 0.5
Somerset Red Streak 0.5
Sweet Alford 0.5
Dabinett 0.6
Eggleton Styre 0.67
Yarlington Mill 0.67
Reine des Hatives 1
Kingston Black 1.3
Belle Cauchoise 1.5
Clozette 1.5
Cremiere 1.5
Antoinette 2
Pomeroy of Somerset 5
Sugar Loaf Pippin 7
Tremletts Bitter 7
Rousse Latour 7.5
Bedan 10
French Crab 10
Sturmer Pippin 5

Apfelwein & Speierling cider

There are words in different countries that translate as cider (eg cidre, sidra) and apfelwein – apple-wine – is a version from Germany.

Besides apfelwein, Germany has the product known as Speierling which traditionally is a cider from the Frankfurt area which though basically cider utilises tannin from the small fruit of the tree identified variously as Speierling, Speyerling or Service.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apfelwein

The Speierling tree is botanically known as Sorbus domestica. Although Wikipedia quotes it as being an endangered species in Germany it exists in various places in Australia and in some areas appears to be in danger of being declared a weed! The tree is quite distinct from an apple or a pear tree with compound leaves having – in the local examples – 13 leaflets whereas apples and pears have simple leaves. The sequence of flowering and fruiting is shown in the images below and the mature fruit is more reminiscent of a pear.























There are also some French products incorporating fruit from Sorbus domestica. The version from Eric Bordolet is Corme: https://ericbordelet.com/corme-en.html#styles

You may be able to find Speierling cider/apfelwein imported from Germany in more specialised Australian bottle shops. The product below was entered into the Australian Cider Awards some years ago:











If you are interested in having a try at making this style of cider you will obviously have to locate some trees that are fruiting. Various herbariums in Australia list localities for the Sorbus domestica tree. eg the Australian Virtual Herbarium and NSW PlantNET.   Then presumably you’ll need permission from the landholder, a very tall ladder and finally energy and patience to harvest the rather small fruit. A tarpaulin and long pole may be a workable alternative to the tall ladder…..

As mentioned earlier, Sorbus domestica will grow in Australia but probably the trees will take a number of years to start bearing fruit so planting trees should be viewed as a long term project.

If you are interested in the assorted other products (including Sorbette, a Sorbus schnapps) follow up through the website: http://rowanswhitebeamsandservicetrees.blogspot.com/2010/03/descriptive-list-of-sorbus-drinks.html

What yield of apples can you expect?

I guess everyone has heard the expression “how long is a piece of string”. Apple yields – cider apple yields – are like that piece of string because there are so many factors to consider. The variety, the rootstock, the year, the age of the tree, seasonal weather, irrigation etc etc etc. But for someone who wants an approximate indication of yield the figures quoted are last seasons yield on a variety by variety basis. Yields could generally be increased with a generous irrigation program but, as with wine grapes, less can often be more.

Please read the apple harvest notes above to get a better understanding of the variables involved in the quoted yield figures. My thanks to Kevin Dodds of NSW Dept of Primary Industries for reviewing the notes and suggesting changes and additions.

The yield of 15,000 litres of juice from an area of 100m * 100m would translate into a lot of 330mL or 750mL bottles. Cider is commonly made by blending a mix of varieties but some of these varieties are successfully made into “varietal” ciders. The choice is up to the cider producer.

Cider orchard with dwarf trees?

Up until recently I’ve considered that developing a large scale cider orchard on dwarfing rootstocks is inviting trouble. Commercial eating apple orchards have progressively been planted on the more dwarfing rootstocks. This has been for various reasons: ease of management, ease of harvesting and earlier return on investment figure prominently. The downside is higher initial investment with more trees required per hectare and more infrastructure eg trellising or other support. If the return for cider can justify it, the hand picking of fruit from dwarf trees is vastly easier and quicker than from taller trees. Hand picking of early crops from dwarf trees is similarly justified so as not to compromise early tree training.

With most cider orchards the aim is not to have a particular form of tree but to produce consistent crops of apples for a low unit cost. This is where mechanical harvesting comes in. And mechanical harvesting is the default option for most of the English cider orchard operations. But then most English cider plantings are on semi-dwarf (or larger/stronger) rootstocks.

The issue with dwarf cider orchards is that until recently there seemed little likelihood of mechanical harvesting being feasible. With dwarf trees, conventional butt-shaking commonly causes tree damage, even to the extent of breaking the tree at the graft union or trunk/root junction. Work by Washington State University with modified over-the-row harvesters (one ex berryfruit) has produced good capture of fruit from the tree. If desired, earlier windfall fruit on the ground can be collected using conventional sweeping equipment. The over-the-row form of harvesting also has the advantage of not being a stop-start process that requires precise locating and gripping of butts so should also evolve into a quicker harvesting operation.

“Feasibility of Different Harvest Methods for Cider Apples: Case Study for Western Washington”

Suzette P. Gallinato, Carol A. Miles, . Travis R. Alexander




For the fresh fruit trade, such mechanically harvested fruit from the tree and from the ground would not be of acceptable quality – and hence not economic. But for apples that within hours will be scratted and pressed and on their way to becoming cider, the mechanical harvesting route is quite acceptable. It may also come about that the work being put into robotic fruit location and harvesting for the fresh fruit trade will reach the stage of feasibility. Whether the harvesting rate would match non-robotic rates is doubtful but the higher quality of robotic harvested fruit may well be desirable for certain juice or cider products.

Combine mechanical harvesting with over-the-row spraying that incorporates spray capture plus associated spray recycling and the orchard operations have a much better chance of meeting increasingly stringent environmental requirements. It will also bring savings for those same spraying operations both in operating time and chemical usage.

As an aside, there is debate about whether there are differences in amounts of flavour compounds, tannin etc in the outer (ie the skin and first few millimetres) of the apple fruit vs the bulk of the apple flesh. If this is so then it follows that small apples with a higher surface to volume ratio would contribute more to the final cider than do larger fruit. The issue here in trying to harness any advantage via small fruit is that hand harvesting small fruit is very labour intensive and therefore costly. This is obviously a dis-incentive to growing small fruited cultivars. Conversely the fruit size makes no difference to the mechanical harvester, leaving the choice of cultivar more open.

Cider apple varieties in Australia

The NSW DPI produced a poster in 2008 of the 30 varieties of cider apple in Australia that appeared to be true-to-type. Since that time the number of varieties has grown to  34 and two posters have been developed (thank you Jenny) which illustrate those 34 varieties and place them in their respective classes eg sweet, bittersweet etc.

The posters differ in that one – “Cider Varieties” – simply shows the varieties in their classes and the other adds a chart to explain the acid and tannin (polyphenol) relationship for the various classes. You are welcome to download the pdf files and print them. I would ask that if you are using them for other than your own use that Cideroz be acknowledged as the source.

Cider Apple Varieties in Australia









Cider Varieties in Australia plus Chart









Some words of explanation regarding “cider varieties”. There is no reason why cider cannot be made from any apple juice. But the results can be disappointing since varieties of apple bred for eating do not necessarily have the characteristics that make for a good cider. The 34 varieties in these posters are those that have been imported into Australia (from Britain and France) at various times because of their suitability for making cider.

There are other “nominally” cider varieties in some Australian collections but they are not yet proven to be true-to-type ie they do not appear to agree with the same variety in the country of origin.

Cider apple blossom

Apple varieties generally produce more fruit when the blossom is fertilised with pollen from a different variety. In order for this to take place it’s necessary to have varieties that reach the appropriate stage of flowering at “about” the same time. The flowers of cider apple varieties go through the same stages of development as do eating apple varieties and the critical period of the blossoming is between king-bloom and full-bloom.

Improved Foxwhelp king02

Apples generally have flowers in clusters and king-bloom is when the first (generally central) blossom opens. Full-bloom is when all the blossoms of a cluster have opened and before petals start to fall.

Because there is a lot of variation of blossoming stage within a tree and between trees, it is not possible to precisely define when a particular variety reaches these stages. Essentially the ascribing of a date for king-bloom or full-bloom is by “averaging” the blossom stages of a given tree. For this reason it is obvious that some flowers will be open ahead of and behind the nominal dates, but the period of receptivity is at a maximum in the nominated period.

Yarlington Mill fullbloom02

Other factors such as weather and bee activity will also naturally play a part in determining how efficient the pollination period will be in setting a crop. When the king-bloom to full-bloom period occurs can vary year-to-year as can the duration. 2015 blossoming was over a very short period. The dates will also vary within districts depending on local microclimates and between districts depending on altitude etc. Generally the sequence of varieties flowering is relatively stable – but not absolute!

The chart below is for the cider varieties just finished blossoming in 2015. For other years please contact davidp at cideroz.com  LL Cider Phenology 2015j  Double-click the chart to get a clearer image. The variety Granny Smith is not generally considered a “cider” apple although is can be useful for adding acidity to a blend. The main reason for including it in the blossoming chart is to give a reference point so that it is possible to get an idea when the cider varieties will bloom.



Cider Apple Trees

HFT-elogosHeritage Fruit Trees – Rob Pelletier                      enquiries@heritagefruittrees.com.au                      PO Box 35, Beaufort, Victoria 3373, Australia

Their website lists cider apples available (April 2016) on various rootstocks together with the available cider scions and apple rootstocks


mi apple logoMiapple Farm       MiaMia, Victoria                                  Peter Cooke  03 9701 3066                                     peter@miapple.com.au                                                          A revised stockist will be posted on the Miapple website in May 2016      http://miapple.com.au

WFT-logo-for-emailWoodbridge Fruit Trees – Tasmania                          Nik Magnus 0418 806 175  http://www.woodbridgefruittrees.com.au/wft/               woodbridgefruittrees@gmail.com

PetePermieTelopea Mountain                                Peter and Silvia Allen                            telopeamtn@bigpond.com                  Invermay Road, Monbulk, Victoria                                                                0418 665 880       http://www.petethepermie.com                                              *Telopea sell trees bare rooted & potted. Their trees are suitable for direct entry into Organic certified and Biodynamic certified farms. Cider variety scions are available.


Balhannah Nurseries – Sam Luke (Manager)       email: sam@balhannahnurseries.com.au              Hartmann Rd, Charleston, South Australia          Ph: 08 8389 4557    Mobile: 0412 237 684              http://balhannahnurseries.com.au    Balhannah currently (April 2016) has available limited quantities of some perry pear trees for delivery winter 2016 – Yellow Huffcap, Blakeney Red, Gin and Moorcroft, along with cider apples Cimetiere de Blangy and Verite

factree_logoGraham’s Factree                                       Libby Fleming  03 9999 1999                             sales@factree.com.au                                     160 Thonemans Rd., Hoddles Creek, Victoria            Factree primarily ‘grow to order’ and deliver bare rooted trees in the winter. Trees can be produced on dwarfing and non-dwarfing rootstocks.                  http://www.factree.com.au

logoOak – Tahune Fields Nursery            Brendon Francis                            brendon.francis@oak.org.au                     Oak – Tahune now manage the apple germplasm collection which was previously held by the Tasmanian DPI. They can supply scionwood, rootstocks or grafted rootstocks. Orders for nursery trees can be placed for delivery winter 2017.       http://oak.org.au/tahune-fields-nursery/

MMFeature (13)Maple Grove Nursery                            Michelle Morrison                                            maplegrovenursery@bigpond.com               Maple Grove have traditionally been known as an apple rootstock supplier and continue to provide this service. They also can produce cider trees to custom order.       http://www.maplegrovenursery.com.au/index.htm

logo-horizontal-darkbg-lgeYalca Fruit Trees                              info@yalcafruittrees.com.au       Yalca have some cider trees available for delivery in winter 2016. Check their website for the variety listing http://www.yalcafruittrees.com.au/product-category/cider-apples-1/

A few words about the material that is available. The more commonly available cider apple varieties – the English ones – would in a lot of cases have been sourced from the collection at the (NSW Agriculture) NSW DPI research station at Orange. These were imported by Dr Jill Campbell in the 1970’s. As far as I am aware these varieties were not guaranteed to be virus tested / virus free and accordingly most of the material currently available carries the same status, unless of course the supplier has undertaken virus “cleaning”. Budwood should still be available from the NSW DPI.

This mention of viruses, whilst it may seem to be of concern, should not be too concerning. Some eating apple varieties were cleaned of viruses and their orchard performance changed in the sense that the trees grew better but did not necessarily fruit better. In some cases the productivity was reduced.

I am asking those people / companies who supply (or who will shortly be in a position to supply) cider apples trees to get in contact with me. Likewise those who supply rootstocks or cider apple budwood. Although I have retired from NSW Agriculture I continue to provide extension information on cider and would like to ensure that my information on sources etc is up-to-date.

The intent is not to list quantities and varieties but simply to make the names and contact details available.

Some suppliers I am already aware of but there will obviously be those I’m not aware of. So the hope is that by putting this request on Cideroz the listing will be as complete as possible.

Please contact via davidp at cideroz.com