While wine connoisseurs and beer aficionados seem to have a language all of their own when it comes to describing their drink of choice, cider is often left out of the conversation. However, those in the know understand that the gluten-free beverage makes a marvelous alcoholic option for the fall when apple picking is in full swing and crisp nights call for a seasonal drink.
For the uninitiated, cider is made from fermented apples and has a lower ABV than wine. This makes it easier to sip for longer periods of time, explains Annie Bystryn, founder of Cider in Love. "In many ways, fine cider offers the best of both—the nuance and complexity of wine plus the easy drinking qualities of beer," she says.
While your eyes may have glazed over cider options when scanning drink menus in search of your go-to wine or a signature cocktail, you may want to introduce the underrated beverage to your palate this fall. Bystryn warns that choosing a cider off a menu can be a tricky task, however. Most bars and restaurants list only the name, so you'll want to ask your server about the flavor and consistency before making a selection.
Curious what kind of cider might suit your fancy? According to Bystryn, "Fine cider is like fine wine," which is why it's only natural to select the best hard ciders for you based on your favorite varietal of wine. Ahead, find out exactly what type of cider to try this fall, whether you love a bitter, dry merlot or a bright and springy riesling.
If You Like Sauvignon Blanc
Recommendation: Redbyrd's Wild Pippin
Description: Woody and savory
"Sauvignon blanc is tremendously popular with cider drinkers and vice versa because this wine is all about juicy acidity," says Bystryn. She suggests trying a sparkling cider called Wild Pippin if this is your favorite type of wine. Expect to taste white pepper, lemongrass, and lime.
If You Like Pinot Grigio
Recommendation: South Hill Cider's Pomme Sur Lie
Description: Smoky, full of tannins
"Pinot gris can vary depending on the region, but its combination of spicy and fruity notes makes it easy to translate to cider," Bystryn says. If you go for this type of wine, she recommends South Hill's Pomme Sur Lie. "It has a silky mouthfeel and a balance of fruit aromas and spicy notes that you'll love."
If You Like Chardonnay
Recommendation: Snowdrift Cider Co.'s Barrel-Aged Cornice
Description: Floral with notes of cinnamon and tannins
For chardonnay lovers, the cider expert offers a Barrel-Aged Cornice from Snowdrift Cider Co. "This cider is aged in American oak, which gives it a beautifully rounded character that balances notes of peaches, vanilla, and caramel along with just a bit of subtle, sparkling bubbles," she says.
If You Like Riesling
Recommendation: Reybyrd Orcharch Cider's Vernal Cloudsplitter
Description: Grassy and tart with notes of clementine
Because Rieslings tend to be crisp and aromatic, Bystryn recommends a Vernal Cloudsplitter from Redbyrd Orchard Cider. "This bright aromatic cider has a citrusy character with mouthwatering tart fruit notes that are balanced by grassy aromas and tannins to give it the flexibility for which rieslings are so famous."
If You Like Champagne
Recommendation: South Hill Cider's Packbasket Sparkling
Description: Grassy with notes of grapefruit and minerals
South Hill Cider's Packbasket Sparkling cider is made with the same fermentation method as Champagne, making it the perfect drink to try if you can't get enough of the traditional bubbly. "It is dry and elegant while the foraged apples that make it create an untamed quality that's brought out by its intense bubbles," Bystryn explains.
If You Like Rosé
Recommendation: Alpenfire Cider's Glow Aerlie Red
Description: Floral and grassy with notes of berry
Thanks to the natural red flesh of the apples used to make this cider, it gives off a coral hue similar to a dry, sophisticated rosé, according to Bystryn. "This dry, subtly sparkling cider holds an irresistible blend of floral, strawberry, and grassy notes that make it the perfect partner for any meal—from poultry to a fruit dessert."
If You Like Pinot Noir
Recommendation: Alpenfire Cider's Spark Heirloom Blend
Description: Woody with notes of brown sugar
If you're a fan of delicate red wine, Bystryn suggests sipping on a Spark Heirloom Blend from Alpenfire Cider. "It’s a medium dry, well-rounded cider that treats drinkers to twiggy and apple-y flavors," she says.
If You Like Malbec
Recommendation: Snowdrift Cider Co.'s Red Cider
Description: Notes of melon, berry, and stone fruit
"If you're drawn to the lush, deep, berry flavors of Malbec, you'll want a balanced cider that's still bursting with ripe fruit flavors," Bystryn notes. That's why you'll want to try Snowdrift Cider's Red Cider. She describes it as, "lush, yet balanced with just a hint of sweetness."
If You Like Merlot
Recomendation: Liberty Ciderworks' Manchurian Crabapple SV
Description: Woody with notes of vanilla and berry
"Merlot is velvety and luxurious, so you'll want a still cider with a fantastic richness," the cider connoisseur indicates. Try the Manchurian Crabapple SV from Liberty Ciderworks to mirror a Merlot's flavor palate. "It has tremendous body but also the intriguing fruitiness unique to crabapples."
If You Like Cabernet Sauvignon
Recommendation: Titled Shed Ciderworks' New England Style Barrel-Aged Cider
Description: Oaky with notes of apple peel and stone fruit
"Cabernet sauvignon is a big, bold wine with earthy tannins and substantial body," according to Bystryn. If this is your go-to wine, you'll want to try an equally commanding cider, like Titled Shed Ciderworks' New England Style Barrel-Aged Cider. "This is a luscious and robust cider, dry yet full-bodied with notes of peaches, apple peel, and oak," she says.
Don't be afraid to explore the best hard ciders this fall. The seasonal drink will be calling your name before you know it.
Up next: 9 types of red wine to drink all year.