What Are the Differences Between Wine and Cider?

At first glance, it may seem like cider and wine share a lot of similarities. Perhaps most importantly, they’re both alcoholic beverages that are made using fruit.

Of course, you know they’re different if you’ve every consumed both beverages. An Italian wine tastes completely different to a farmer’s apple cider, for example.

The question we aim to answer here is why?

If both drinks are made using fruit, surely you’d expect them to taste similar?

And yet, they’re completely different!

This article aims to look at the main differences between apple and cider so that you know what your drinking experience differs depending on which one you choose.

Difference #1 – The Fruits Used to Make it

Let’s get the obvious difference out of the way first. 

Generally speaking, cider and wine are made using completely different fruits. For wine, we use grapes. And for cider, the traditional fruit used is apples.

However, it’s not always quite that simple. There are any ciders out there that use a variety of different fruits. Strawberry, lime, and even grapes have found their way into ciders at some point.

Likewise, there are some wines that are made using apples. These tend to be a little sharper than the wines made using grapes, as you’d expect if you’ve tasted both fruits before.

So, while this is a difference it’s not as cut and dry as you’d imagine. Yes, traditional wine and traditional cider use different fruits. But there are plenty of examples of fruit crossovers between the two drinks.

Difference #2 – The Fermentation Process

This is another odd difference as the actual process for making cider is very similar to that used for making wine. Both involve fermenting a fruit until it produces an alcoholic beverage. 

The difference comes in the length of time that the fruits spend in the fermentation process. Wines spend a lot longer in this stage, which leads to the resulting drink having a far higher alcohol content than cider.

Thus, the production methods differ depending on the drink. Of course, there are also variances within each individual drinks fermentation process. Some cider producers may ferment for longer than others in the same way that some wine producers may have different production techniques to other wine producers.

There are also come ciders that don’t go through the fermentation process at all. Typically, these won’t have an alcohol content, but that doesn’t mean that you should rule them out of the discussion.

But again, as a general rule, cider will spend a lot less time in the fermentation stage than wine.

Difference #3 – The Alcohol Content

That big difference in fermentation length contributes to another major difference between the two drinks – the alcohol content.

Cider will generally have an alcohol content that hovers around the 5% mark. Some examples of the beverage may veer closer to the 8% or 9% mark. But these tend to be outliers rather than being the norm for the beverage.

By contrast, wines tend to hit the mid double-figures.

At the lower end of the spectrum, you’ll find wines in the 11% and 12% range. But it’s far more common to find wines in the 13% to 15% range.

Of course, this also means that there’s a big difference in serving sizes.

A regular glass of wine will have a similar alcohol content to a pint of cider. In fact, you only need a third of a pint of wine to get the same alcoholic effects as you’d get from a pint of cider, in general.

Simply put, you can’t drink the same volume of wine as you’d drink of cider. Doing so could have serious consequences for your health. 

Difference #4 – The Variety of Types

With cider, you generally have two types – cider and hard cider. The latter is the one that goes through fermentation. You may have several flavours that fall into these two types. But you’re not going to get much more variance in terms of how the cider’s produced.

By contrast, there are several more types of Italian wine, each of which requires different production methods. You have white, red, and Rosé wines as standard. Them you have to consider sparkling and fortified wines. There’s just more variety in type. And again, each of those types sees massive variety in terms of grapes used and vintages. There are literally hundreds of different types of red wine, with many hundreds more producers.

Difference #5 – The Sugar Content

This is one of the more surprising differences between the two drinks. And again, it comes down to the differences in the fermentation process.

Generally speaking, a cider will contain a lot more natural sugars than a wine. And it’s a pretty substantial difference.

The sugar content in cider from range from 6% to 15%. By contrast, a wine’s sugar content rarely goes above 2%. And when it does, it’s considered a much sweeter variety of wine than normal.

And there in lies the big difference that higher sugar content brings. Cider generally tastes sweeter and less complex than wine due to this high sugar content.

The key here is the length of the fermentation process. Fermentation requires sugar so the longer a drink stays in fermentation, the more sugar gets consumed. As we established earlier, wine takes a lot longer to produce than cider. Thus, the resulting drink has a far lower sugar content.

The Final Word

What’s interesting here is how many differences arise due to slight changes in production methods.

On the surface, it would seem like cider and wine should basically be the same drink. They’re both made using fruit that undergoes a fermentation process.

But a combination of the types of fruits used and the length of time they ferment for results in two completely different types of drink.

While the xtraWine team obviously prefers a glass of wine over a glass of cider, that’s not to say the latter drink doesn’t have its merits. After all, there are few things better than enjoying a glass of cider in the sun!

But if it’s wine you’re looking for, we’re here to help you. Check out the extensive xtraWine catalogue to find an Italian wine that suits your tastes.

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