FEASIBILITY OF PRODUCING SPARKLING PEAR CIDER FROM JUICE QUALITY BARTLETT PEARS

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS:
Glenn T. McGourty, UCCE Mendocino County
COOPERATORS:
Michel Salgues, Roederer Estate U.S., Philo, California
Tom Thomas, Alex Thomas and Company, Ukiah, California
Christian Butzke, Extension Enologist, UC Davis

INTRODUCTION:

To keep pear growing profitable and feasible, all segments of the pear market must cover expenses and provide a fair profit for the growers' efforts. In the 1994 growing season, prices for pear juicing stock fell to $25 per ton. This fruit is basically sound, but has surface blemishes, or is too small for cannery fruit. Canneries are now demanding larger sized fruit. The fresh market also does not permit the movement of very much small fruit, as smaller sizes are generally not very profitable. Small fruit may actually suppress the price of normal sized fruit if too much is offered by packers. Consequently, the percentage of fruit sent to the juice stream is likely to increase in the near future. A need to find a market for this fruit that gives the growers a fair return is evident.

In Northern Europe, a sparkling alcoholic beverage is made from both pears and apples. Indeed, "cider" (in French, "cidre") by definition is fermented juice of apples or pears. These beverages are usually between 4 to 6.5 percent alcohol and generally retains some carbon dioxide, so that it has fizz, not unlike beer. Both the British Isles and Northern France consume considerable amounts of both apple cider and "perry" (in French, "poire.") Presently, among consumers 18 to 30 years old in those countries, cider and perry are the second most popular alcoholic beverages after beer. In the last ten years, Britain has seen a 10 percent increase in consumption of cider. These products are offered both on tap in pubs and bars, and in the bottle. In the United States, cider has grown faster than any other American alcoholic beverage category. Official import figures show that shipments grew 250 percent from 1988 to 335,000 cases in 1994. Two California companies have started producing cider during the last year and are estimated to be producing collectively almost 100,000 cases.

Many French farmers produce "cidre" and "poire" by the "method rurale" in which apples and pears are picked in autumn, and then stored on layers of straw to ripen and slightly dehydrate. This tends to concentrate sugar and aromas from the very ripe fruit. In January, the fruit is crushed, and primary fermentation is done in barrels. The cool temperatures result in a slow fermentation that conserves fragrances, and allows the must to clarify fairly readily. When the initial fermentation is finished, they then "prime" the cider or perry by placing it in bottles with a little yeast and sugar, and allow a secondary fermentation that causes the formation of carbon dioxide and pressure. A small amount of yeast residues will be left at the bottom of the bottle, but this is not considered to be a problem by consumers. Secondary fermentation takes about one to two months, and the beverages are then sold or consumed. The process requires very little equipment, and often the juicing is done by custom crushing provided by people with truck mounted cider mills and presses.

A variation on this approach would be the "method champagnoise" in which the yeast deposits are disgorged, the bottles topped and recapped. The resulting beverage is very clear and fresh in flavor, with no yeast residues in the end product. Again, this technique can be done with surprisingly little equipment or investment, other than labor.

A more industrial approach would be to crush fruit, ferment in stainless steel tanks and then either secondarily ferment in stainless steel pressure vessels, or add carbon dioxide and bottle. The sparkling wine industry identifies this as the "bulk charmat process." This is the most common method employed by large scale producers in Great Britain. The end product is very palatable, but purists claim that cider and perry produced with secondary fermentation in the bottle or keg is still the best. Yet another variation is to make the cider from concentrate, which eliminates the need for crushing equipment, and simplifies microbiological problems that result from less than prime fruit that sometimes finds its way into juice grade fruit.

In England, perry is usually made from pear cultivars grown especially for this purpose. They are often grown in hedgerows, and can be quite large trees. The fruit typically is small, hard, acidic and the skins are tannic. In the literature, dessert fruit quality pears are considered less desirable for perry.

The growth of "brew pubs" in the United States during the last ten years has been phenomenal, going from 8 in 1985, to 417 today. The sale of "craft brews" has grown steadily at a staggering rate of almost 40 percent per year. Brew pubs are interested in offering alcoholic cider in the tradition of Great Britain; presently, there are several small companies that are beginning to market alcoholic cider in California into this market. The brew pubs want to be able to offer a beverage in the price range of their beers that would appeal to customers (especially women) that don't like the bitter flavors and full body that craft beers typically have.

Since the technology and market appear to exist, this study was initiated to determine if a quality beverage could be fermented from juice grade pears. The cooperation of Michel Salgues, Gil Martin and Arnaud Weyrick, winemaking staff of the American branch of the famous Roederer Champagne House of France, provided invaluable knowledge on the production of sparkling fermented beverages. They assisted this project in the spirit of international goodwill and appreciation for the community of Mendocino County and the agricultural industries that share the landscape and local economy.

OBJECTIVES:

  1. Determine if Bartlett pears can make an acceptable cider with either the "rural method" or "champagne method" of sparkling wine production.
  2. Have a taste panel compare ciders made from Bartlett, Bosc and Winter Nelis pears.

PROCEDURES:

Bartlett and Winter Nelis fruit were taken from the A.R. Thomas & Co. Control Atmosphere storage facility and crushed on March 9, 1995. The Winter Nelis fruit was in good condition, and required little culling. The Bartlett fruit required culling due to some spoilage. The fruit was run through a hammer mill and the juice extracted with a hydraulic press.

The juice was then transferred to 160 gallon stainless steel tanks and transported to the Roederer Estate US winery for fermentation. The juice was inoculated with Prise de Mousse yeast. The Winter Nelis juice was treated with 100 ppm SO², to discourage unwanted microbes. The Bartlett juice was treated with 150 ppm SO², because more spoilage was evident in the fruit before crushing. Since Bosc fruit was not available, single concentrate juice was obtained from Naumes Concentrates in Marysville and fermented. No SO² was added, as the juice was pasteurized during the concentrate process.

The following juice analysis was made:
Pear Juice Analysis
Cultivars
Winter Nelis Bartlett Bosc
Specific Gravity 1065--12° C 1047--12° C 1058--11° C
Brix 15.7% 0.114 13.50%
Titratable Acidity 0.009% tartaric .17% tartaric .66% tartaric
pH 4.54 4.21 3.35
Free SO² 23 ppm 4 ppm NA
Total SO² 54 ppm 44 ppm NA

The winemakers decided that based on their experiences with grape juice fermentations, to adjust the pear juice with the following additions at the time of yeast inoculation:

Acidification of the fermenting juice is considered necessary to improve flavor (high pH juices taste flat) and to preserve or stabilize the resulting wine or cider. Since the Bartlett pears were quite ripe when crushed, the acidity had diminished greatly compared to the Winter Nelis and Bosc fruits, which were relatively firm when crushed. Tannins were added to give the ciders more structure, and complexity in taste ("mouth feel".)

Fermentation proceeded fairly quickly and the ciders were ready for bottling and secondary fermentation 10 to 14 days after primary fermentation. At that time, the varietal ciders were placed in 750 ml sparkling wine bottles and the following materials were added:

Bottles were then transferred to the cask room of the winery (ambient temperature about 60° F) and allowed to go through secondary fermentation. The ciders were sampled on June 13th following riddling by hand (removing the yeast and bentonite deposits.) The following data were obtained:
Pear Cider Analysis
Cultivar
Bartlett Winter Nelis Bosc
Titratable acidity 0.57% 0.63% 0.66%
pH 3.24 3.18 3.40
Alcohol content 7.9% 6.0% 6.5%
Pressure (14.5° C) 2.2 bars 2.5 bars 2.0 bars
Residual sugar <1 g/liter 1-2 g/liter 3-4 g/liter
Samples of the three wines were tasted at the same time by a panel consisting of three winemakers, two vineyard managers and the author. Ciders were cooled to about 40° F for tasting. The following comments and ratings were given:

Bartlett Cider:
First place overall, preferred by 4 of 6 tasters. Slight oxidation noted, probably due to over ripe fruit that was crushed. Very pretty appearance, in the color range of pale yellow to straw. The cider has a pleasant pear fragrance, soft rounded mouth feel, and a slight bitterness in the final taste. The cider also tasted a little flat to some of the panel, and they felt that slightly more acidification would improve it. Others found it very refreshing, light and clean tasting.

Bosc Cider:

Second place overall. Very pleasant pear fragrance, with a caramel flavored background. Pleasant but not excessive tartness. Soft rounded mouth feel, more body than the Bartlett cider. Would probably be better if made from fresh juice.

Winter Nelis Cider:

Third place overall, but first place for two of the panel. The French members of the panel claimed that this was the closest to "perry" that they remembered in France. The cider was well structured and tannic, with almost olive flavors, strong pear fragrance, slightly reduced in odor. Americans found this one the least appealing.

The remainder of the cider was disgorged by machine on July 6th. Half of the bottles had an additional 7.5 grams of sugar added to increase the sweetness. No additional sugar was added to the other bottles. The cider was cellared again in the winery's cask room, and retasted on November 6th. The different ciders held up well, but some refermentation occurred, particularly in the Winter Nelis, as no pasteurization or preservatives had been added. No agreement was reached among the tasting group as to whether additional sugar improved the flavor of the ciders. Most felt that either the dry or slightly sweet styles were both quite acceptable and refreshing. Some of the Bartlett and Bosc cider had turned a shade of light pink to purple, most likely due to some enzymatic activity that pasteurization would probably stop.

DISCUSSION:

Juice of Bartlett pears is certainly well suited for fermentation into a quality sparkling beverage. Additions of tartaric acid and tannins improve the structure and mouth feel of the cider. The resulting beverage is fragrant, tastes good and is light and dry. This cider could be an acceptable alternative to beer and wine for people who wish to have a dry, non bitter, lower alcoholic drink. Most Americans who tasted the ciders liked Bartlett cider the best. The other pears also made acceptable ciders. The champagne method for making sparkling pear cider works very well and creates a very elegant and pleasant beverage. A small business making one or two thousand cases a year from this technique could be developed with little capital investment, although labor would be intensive.

Initial interest in commercial cidermaking appears strong. Samples were distributed to three companies that are seriously investigating the commercial cider market. All three companies felt that the ciders were good and had commercial potential.

We hope to continue this study and look at a more efficient method of making cider that doesn't require as much labor or glassware.

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