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Apple wine is, quite simply, wine made from apples. For many people, especially Western people, the term "wine" is specific to the alcoholic beverage that is derived from the fermenting of green or purple grapes, sometimes a combination of the two. Grapes, however, are not the only fruit that can be used to make wine. In addition to apples, wine is also sometimes made with elderberries. It can also be made from rice, which is common in the East.
Wine made from apples is sometimes called "apfelwein" or simply "cider". Just as wines made from grapes are simply fermented grape juices, apple wine is simply fermented apple juice or fermented apple cider. During the fermentation process, yeast and sometimes sugar are added to the apple wine. The wine can take anywhere from one month to several months to complete the fermentation process.
Once the fermentation process ends or is close to ending — a time frame that is largely dependent on temperature — the wine is racked. This means that the wine is separated from its sediment. The exact time to rack the wine depends in the preferences and intentions of the wine makers. They will make this decision based on the flavor of the wine, which helps them to decide the best time for racking.
After the wine has been racked, it is kept in a cool place and allowed to settle. This process can take up to a month but is crucial to make sure that the fermentation process has finished. At this point, the apple wine is ready to be bottled. At this point, the apple wine is a golden yellow color, quite bright in tone.
The alcohol content of apple wine ranges quite a bit, from 10 to 18 percent. This percentage varies based on the yeast that is used during the fermentation process of the wine. This is similar to the alcohol content of wine made from grapes. Fortified wine made from grapes, has a higher alcohol content.
Apple wine is best served chilled. The tarter varieties can be enjoyed with fish and poultry entrees. Many varieties of apple wine are quite sweet and serve well as a dessert drink. Sometimes apple wines that are mixed with berry wines are used as a substitute for rose, which has been enjoying a bit of a comeback in popularity in discerning wine circles after many years of being shunned.
Some of the most foul, rotgut wine on the planet is fermented from apples. Why? Apples are cheap, ferment quickly and dragging a high alcohol content out of them in an abbreviated time period is easy. Check the label on your favorite bottle of "bum wine" and there's a good chance you've got a bottle of apple wine on your hands.
Now, that's not to say all apple wine is low quality swill. There are some great ciders out there, in fact, made by companies that take pride in their products. They'll cost more than the swill marketed to alcoholics on a budget but are worth it.
And for those wanting to get into the wine making hobby, starting by fermenting apple cider is a good choice.