1/12/2013 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent
GENEVA, N.Y. — If you missed the cider and perry production workshop hosted by Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station last month, you’ll have another opportunity to attend.
Because the workshop filled up so quickly, Cornell will welcome Peter Mitchell to lead an encore workshop Jan. 21-25.
Mitchell has been in the cider business more than 25 years and has become a world-renowned expert on its production. He markets his own hard cider, Out of the Orchard products, and owns Mitchell Food & Drink Limited and Cider & Perry Academy, and the Orchard Centre at Hartpury, Gloucestershire, UK.
Mitchell has become a business consultant and workshop leader in the industry. The UK native has held annual cider and perry workshops at Cornell for the past decade.
The UK comprises 55 percent of the world’s cider market, as of 2010, Mitchell said. South Africa is a distant second at 13 percent. North America accounts for only 3 percent. Mitchell hopes “to get people to understand more about cider,” he said. “Making quality cider will drive sales and keep sales up.”
The workshop is also sponsored by the National Association of Cider Makers and offers the option of earning an NACM Certification in Cider and Perry Appreciation after successfully completing an examination at the end of the class.
Topics for the five-day event include a background of the cider industry, cider SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), sensory analysis in cider production, highlights of the cider market, cider industry organizations, single flavor attributes and sensory faults, the cider and alcoholic drinks industry, the flavor of cider, preparation for fermentation, microbiological control, post-fermentation management, perry production, downstream processing, and quality control.
Participants can expect to engage in sensory analysis of cider products, including its appearance, aroma and flavor, during the cider tasting.
Studying cider as a business is also a big part of the workshop.
Participants in the December workshop identified strengths as marketability, appeal, broad growth potential, nutritional value, connection to nature, good taste, alcoholic content, versatility, local production, approachability, apple heritage and price.
“You don’t have $70 bottles of cider,” said one participant.
But Mitchell cautioned that a strength can also be a weakness.
“How you price a product is how people perceive it,” he said.
In addition to price, cider’s other weaknesses include the small variety (when compared with grapes used for wine), the extra time it takes to make cider compared with beer, cider’s image, and the language surrounding cider.
“Is it hard cider’ or sweet cider’ or cider’ that’s really apple juice?” Mitchell said. “This is a big weakness in the U.S.”
The verbiage also ties into cider’s image as only a drink for young people or a cheap alternative to wine.
“People aren’t sure they want to buy it as it has a confused message,” Mitchell said. “People trying to order it in a bar would likely get strange looks from a bartender.”
Making cider correctly is also a weakness. While it is easy to make, “it’s easy for it to go wrong,” Mitchell said. “There’s an awful lot of bad cider in the world.”
As for opportunities, look no further than the growth of the cider industry in the U.S. Demand is growing, as reflected by the increase in cider production. Mitchell said that Vermont had its biggest production year on record last year.
Threats to the industry include changing legislation. Tighter legislation affecting labeling and food safety can mean more fees and requirements that producers must follow, Mitchell said.
“It’s already beginning in the U.K., and in the U.S. the definition of what cider is may be changing,” Mitchell said.
Classifying cider with different types of alcoholic drinks because of its alcohol content would make it subject to higher levels of excise tax.
As for food safety, Mitchell urged attendees to stay proactive with their own processes and documentation. In Europe, producers are encouraged to include a “Know Your Limits” warning on alcoholic beverages.
“If the alcohol industry doesn’t do this voluntarily, it will be legislated,” Mitchell said.
The label specifies tolerance levels for men and women to help them consume a reasonable amount of alcohol.
The whole five-day class is $950. Attending only part one is $400. The fee includes lunch, refreshments, cider tastings and the class curriculum. Those wishing to attend must make reservations in advance. Visit the NACM website, www.cideruk.com.
For those seeking NACM Certification in Cider and Perry Appreciation, there is an additional fee of $150, which includes a copy of Mitchell’s book, “Out of the Orchard — Into the Glass,” which will be sent after reservations have been made. Students should study the book before attending.
For more information and directions to the experiment station, contact Gemma Osborne at 315-787-2248 or gro2<\ //cals.cornell.edu/nysaes/.