Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

Core of the Problem: Defining Cider

January 23, 2011

By Tracy Kennedy
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; but when it comes to cider, a name’s regional meaning could determine whether the product gets regulated by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The word “cider” could mean that a drink is nothing more than apple juice, or that it’s a fermented, alcoholic drink that falls under ABC jurisdiction.

Sen. John Watkins, R-Midlothian, is seeking to better define the term to apply toward ciders made with Virginia apples, which have a higher sugar concentration ideal for making alcoholic ciders.

His proposal, Senate Bill 1000, would define cider as any beverage created by fermenting the natural sugar of apples. The law would create two classes of cider:

  • Cider that has undergone chaptalization, a process that adds sugars to the concentrate to increase alcohol content after fermentation
  • Cider that has no more than 7 percent alcohol, regardless of chaptalization.

“I don’t think [the bill] has any fiscal impact,” Watkins said. “It just lets people know how good [Virginia apples] are.”

Watkins said the Virginia Wine Council proposed SB 1000 because of Bold Rock Cidery, a hard cider production facility set to begin construction in Nelson County this spring.

“We expect to see a few more hard cideries pop up around Virginia in the next year or two,” said Patrick Cushing, a lobbyist for the Virginia Wine Council.

Before voting on the bill, senators took the opportunity to make cider-related jokes.

“Is there a higher percentage of alcohol in the cider that goes to Powhatan than the rest of the country?” Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, asked Cushing to a chorus of laughter.

The bill passed the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee with a unanimous vote. The full Senate will consider it this week.

On the Web

To track Senate Bill 1000, visit