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

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 but it doesn’t necessarily prove that all the starch within the fruit has been converted to sugars.

It is possible to assess the starch content of fruit visually using the starch iodide test:

This utilises a solution of potassium iodide and iodine in water which is applied to the cut surface of the apple. The degree of blackening will show whether starch remains unconverted and how much. The pattern of the blackening varies with the apple variety. 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. On the right is an apple picked from the tree. Apples that have fallen could be ripe and drop from the tree. Alternatively the fallen apple could have been squeezed off as other apples in its bunch expand.

Examples of the current season’s testing are linked below.


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

Red Hill Cider Show 2021

See update at the foot of this item:
Read carefully for the good news…. taken from the Red Hill Show Facebook page….
We are sad to announce that the 2021 Red Hill Show will be CANCELLED in its current form as we know it…a full day of family entertainment. However, we will be running some of our pavilion events which is the backbone of our show. This includes the sections of Art, Beer, Cider, Cooking, Craft, Flowers, Fruit, Honey, Mead, Photography, Preserves and Vegetables. Schedules will be out in January.

So get busy organising your cider entries: amateur or commercial.       Entries are normally required by around mid February with judging later in February. Check the Red Hill Show website for further information and to enter.

UPDATE 9 January 2021: The schedule for the Cider Show has been released. Check out at SCHEDULE

ANOTHER UPDATE – 2 March 2021: Due to Covid issues in Victoria the Red Hill Cider Show has been deferred four weeks. Entries will be received up to 15th March and judging will be on 23 March. Presentation evening will be 6pm Thursday 1st April. Details through Wayne Hewett 0407 812 973 or

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.

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:

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:

Red Hill Cider Show 2020

The Australian Cider Awards has been running since 2011. The issue for amateur cidermakers is that entry is only possible for commercial producers. Commercial producers can enter the Red Hill Cider Show but so can non-commercial / home / amateur cidermakers.

For the latest information re the Show including the judging panel see the website Red Hill Cider Show

For the classes that can be entered see the Exhibitor Guide

You have the opportunity of benchmarking your cider or perry against other amateur makers and commercial producers. The particularly valuable aspect is: “All entries will receive judging comments”

If you’ve been wondering how your product compares with peers of the same type and/or how you might improve it then those comments may well be valuable. Apart from that you may be surprised by good your cider is. Last year’s results – see their website for the link – shows a number of silvers and bronzes for the amateur entries.

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.

Red Hill Cider Show

The Australian Cider Awards has been running since 2011. The issue for amateur cidermakers is that entry is only available to commercial producers.

If you are a hobby/home/amateur cidermaker you can enter a show such as the Red Hill Cider Show

which accepts entries from both commercial and amateur cider makers.

You have the opportunity of benchmarking your cider or perry against other amateur makers and commercial producers. The particularly valuable aspect is: All entries will receive judging comments”

If you’ve been wondering how your product compares with peers of the same type and/or how you might improve it then those comments may well be valuable.

Check the Red Hill website quoted for details of cost, how to enter, how much to supply etc etc

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.