Have you ever wondered how the level of certain compounds can impact the sensory perception of others? Okay, we all know I’m an apple geek so stick with me. Hard cider is generally a balance of sweet, sour, astringency, and bitterness. You can add aroma and we can talk about sour as tart, acidic, or sour but I found it interesting how things like ethanol can impact the perception of sweetness or bitterness in a cider. Many studies have been conducted around the sensory perceptions of wine but wine is not cider. Alcohol levels in wine are much higher. R. Symoneaux and associates did a two-part study on the sensory impact of polyphenols in hard cider(1). In that process, they also assessed other elements like sweetness and acidity. In their research, they identified how cider’s lower alcohol levels can impact sensory perceptions versus wine. In studies on wine, alcohol was found to impact astringency but that only occurred at higher levels. With the lower level of alcohol in hard cider, it did not appear to impact the perception of astringency.
I found it especially interesting that acid didn’t have a sensory impact on bitterness or that tannins didn’t impact the perception of sourness. I was also surprised that ethanol can have a positive impact on sweetness. It is hypothesized that viscosity can have an impact on sensory perceptions. This is why ethanol could create the perception of sweetness or why sugar might have a perceived decrease to astringency. I found their research to be very interesting and loved that they delved into understanding cider and looked at how it differed from wine. It’s another great example of how hard cider is an under appreciated beverage with its own elements of complexity. Cider is cider. It’s not wine or beer. It may borrow from them but cider is also unique.
(1) R. Symoneaux & Associates, Impact of apple procyanidins on sensory perception in model cider (Part 1 & 2), LWT – Food Science and Technology 57 (2014) 22e27 & 28e34
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