CiderWorld’23- visit recap

When I looked at the agenda of CiderWorld’23 sent to me in April by Christine Isensee-Kiesau, who organises CiderWorld together with Michael Stöckl, I already knew it was going to be special. And, even more exciting than last year or than expo’s that took place before Corona. There were so many interesting agenda items planned for over three days -all related to cider that I felt excited and proud that I could participate in CiderWorld’23. But let’s briefly introduce CiderWorld first in case you’ve never heard of this cider event before. CiderWorld is an international cider fair along with a cider competition and, the most important one in this part of Europe, taking place in Frankfurt, Germany launched in 2008 as Apfelwein International. Here is how each day of CiderWorld’23 looked like from my perspective.

Day 1 – CiderWorld’23 Award – Thursday

The first day of CiderWorld is always about tasting and evaluating cider and other related beverages in a blinded tasting. All information that the judges get to know about the entered products are the category, in which a beverage was entered, country of origin, level of ABV, residual sugar and sometimes production method (method ancestral, keeved, etc.), used apple varieties or other ingredients such as hops or other fruits. Products can be entered in one of the following 7 categories, Still (Cider/Perry), Sparkling (Cider/Perry), Mixed & Flavoured (Hopped, co-ferments, etc.), Dessert & Fortified (ice cider, dessert wine), Non-alcoholic cider and Spirit (pommeau). This year, the breakdown of categories was amended so perries and ciders were assesses in the category Still or Sparkling. In contrast to CiderWorld’Award’22, perry was assessed in the same category as e.g. hopped cider. Similarly to previous edition, the judging panel gathered at Zum Lahmen Esel, a typical Apfelwein restaurant in Frankfurt to assess entered ciders and select the best ones. Each cider could get up to max. 120 points. Depending on the number of received points, cider gets either Gold, Silver or Honor just like described in the picture below.

Snapshot of the judging tool

This year 170 products from 20 countries and 3 continents were entered. My judging panel, which consisted of three judges Haritz Rodriguez (Ciderlands), Joxe Mari Alberro (Sagadoaren Lurraldea) with me being the chair, was suppose to review 22 products. I guess we were a group that not only evaluated but also appreciated sampled ciders and for this reason it took us a bit longer than other judging panels to assess, submit points and comments into the judging tool. Thanks to Haritz and Joxe, both from the Basque Country I could take a deep dive into the world of Basque sagardoa but also to Asturian sidra. And, taking my Spanish lessons finally paid off as we communicated during judging in Spanish. My Spanish cider vocabulary improved immensely. Apart from Michael, Christine and the very friendly and supportive staff, there was also Gabe Cook, Ciderologist himself who would moderate and bring to you new samples within literally a couple of minutes. Upon request of Gabe, whenever a cider or perry received Gold, one would gently hit the glass with a pen or whatever was available at hand so everyone would know that a product won Gold. I must say that it lifted even more already a wonderful and lovely atmosphere during the tasting exercise. My judging panel was not very generous in terms of Golds as among I think 18 ciders we gave only three Golds. To our defence, I have to stress that these awarded products were truly exceptional. Overall, Haritz, Joxe and me were very aligned and we had a similar opinion on the quality and taste of entered ciders. Most of them were very correct, without any faults but in a way not outstanding and thus easily forgettable. But those three Golds were really fantastic! Overall, I had the impression that there were significantly more cider experts in the jury than in previous years and the profile of ciders they had to evaluate and sample where in line with their expertise. Great to see this adjustment! Maybe Michael and Christine read my visit recap from last year, where I touched this topic- see here?

After the jury tasting, in the evening the members of the jury panel were invited to a dinner at a restaurant Daheim in der Affentor Schänke serving traditional Frankfurt cuisine. Briefly, the combination of delicious food, local Apfelwein that paired well with the served dishes and the company of like-minded people was the best end of the first day of CiderWorld.

Day 2 – Announcement of the winners of CiderWorldAward’23 & Visit to Kelterei Possmann. Friday.

Friday begun with the announcement of the winners of CiderWorldAward’23 moderated by Gabe Cook. If you had a chance to read Gabe’s book Ciderology, you may be familiar with his wit and gift of talking about cider in an entertaining and highly interesting way. This is exactly how Gabe was while moderating CiderWorldAward’23 and inviting the winners to the stage. For the full list of winners of CiderWorld Award’23 click here. Edu Coto received a special award for his engagement in making world a better cider place.

The next agenda item of CiderWorld scheduled for Friday was a visit to the largest Apfelwein producer in Germany, Kelterei Possmann. Two busses took jury members, cider makers and other cider professionals to the Frankfurt neighborhood of Rödelheim, where the production site of Kelterei Possmann is located. We were welcomed by the 5th generation cider maker and owner, Peter Possmann and so the guided tour could begin. Kelterei Possmann was set up in 1881 by Philipp Possmann and has some turbulent times behind. The most interesting fact that I wasn’t aware of is that in 1938 the Nazi government forbid making Apfelwein so the family Possmann could only press apple juice. After the World War II, all the tanks were destroyed and the steel along with other metals were scarce. So Werner Possmann, came up with an idea of using submarines (obviously made of steel) and turning them into tanks (container for holding Apfelwein, not the military vehicle). As crazy as it sounds, it turned out to be a brilliant idea. Each of the tanks fit 40.000 liters and is still in use until today. As for numbers, between 8 to 10 mln liters of apple juice are processed here. The Apfelwein-making process is smartly designed to press astonishing 15 tons of apples per hour and obtain 250k liters per day. Apples are being delivered usually from the radius of 200km but if there is bad harvest, they would use apples from the north of Germany or from the north of Italy. I think this is the first time I visited such a huge Apfelwein/cider producer and I was really impressed with everything being big, more efficient and that everything came in thousands or millions. However, I just wonder how they make a living if a 1L-bottle of their Apfelwein purchased from the supermarket in Germany costs around 2 EUR. I guess the quantity makes it. Anyhow, if you happen to be planning a visit Frankfurt, make sure to include Kelterei Possmann into your visit itinerary. It’s so worth it!

The next item on the agenda was a sightseeing tour of the Frankfurt’s old town with Michael Stöckl, the organisor of CiderWorld. As we wandered through the old town, Hauptwache and Römer, Michael shared with us some interesting facts about the history of Frankfurt. The sightseeing ended in Sachsenhausen, the Apfelwein area of Frankfurt, where a get together for judges, cider makers exhibiting the next day and friends took place. This was another networking opportunity for cider people where you could also drink as always fantastic ciders made by Jens Becker (Apfelweinhandlung)or sample ciders brought by participating cider makers. Naturally, a visit to the famous cider celler of Frank Winkler at Daheim im Lorsbacher Thal with his selection of nearly 300 different ciders from 28 countries and four continents could not be missed. Frank’s restaurant has the largest selection of ciders.

During that evening, I had a very interesting discussions with Patrik at Pomologik, Justine at La Maison Ferre and Federico at Appleblood Cider about problems cider are facing in their countries and regions. In Sweden, you have to fight the big alco-pop brands who built the market from scratch, while in Normandy, where apparently everyone makes cidre, requesting more than 3.5 EUR per 75cl bottle is out of question as no one would buy it. In Italy, cider is not considered wine yet and although the craft beer scene is growing strongly, cider is still somewhere there in the limbo. And, natural wine scene apparently doesn’t exist there. It will take a lot of effort, smart strategy and time to change these mindsets but it doesn’t mean that this is impossible.

Day 3 – CiderWorld’23 Expo. Saturday. 

Just like last year, the Expo was scheduled for one day only instead of two as it was the case before Corona. Traders or jury members could enter the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten already at 12pm, while all other visitors could enter from 2pm onwards and sample cider until 6pm. Hence, again, I had only 6hrs to sample ciders that I haven’t explored before or tried within the last two days. And, again I failed to visit all cider makers. Although I prepared a list of top priority ciders to try (mostly those that won Silver or Gold) I didn’t accomplish my mission. Again I failed to visit most booths offering German Apfelwein or cider. And, paid just a brief visit to the Spanish booths located this time in the gallery. I wonder how the regular visitors who are not familiar with most cider makers can visit all cider stands during their 4 hour-visit. I really hope that the 2 day expo will return as 6hrs is not fair towards so many cider makers who came to Frankfurt from as far as Slovenia or Norway to the event.

Best Cider Discoveries of CiderWorld’23

Now the most exciting part for most of you! The best cider highlights of CiderWorld’23! As already mentioned above, I missed sampling products of many cider producers. Therefore, the section about the highlights of CiderWorld’23 is surely incomplete. Please bear with me. 

Cider makers and ciders are mentioned in alphabetical order.

The Apfeltau team and me

Apfeltau– Christian and Philipp from Hanau, Hesse, Germany are I think the only apple jack producers in Europe (apple jack is obtained by freezing apple wine and draining the liquid that didn’t freeze). Although, I reviewed several products from their portfolio before – Der Milde 2021, Der Saure 2021, Der Liebliche 2021, for CiderWorld’ 23 they released their new apple jack, Fusion, a blend of several Apfelweins. It had a great balance of sweetness and acidity and thus was highly drinkable despite the high ABV of 21%. A review of Fusion will be published soon. Also, Christian fixed me a cocktail using one of the apple jacks with tonic and ice. I thought it was brilliant! It proves that cider or cider-related products can really be versatile.

Federico at Appleblood Cider

Appleblood Cider is an Italian cider maker from the Trentino region of South Tirol represented by a very friendly Federico. It was my first encounter ever with the products of Appleblood Cider although I follow them on Instagram. And, I was amazed what they can do with dessert apples. Since Federico passed me a bottle of their Sidera Brut 2019, I will post the cider review soon so stay tuned!

Manfred at Böhm’s Ciderwerkstatt

Böhm’s Ciderwerkstatt Manfred Böhm is the cidermaker behind Böhm Ciderwerkstatt. Manfred is based in Baden-Wüttenberg and I had a pleasure to sample Manfred’s cider even before he went professional. At the time, I thought his products were very tasty and you could tell that Manfred has it’s own style. Last year, Manfred attended CiderWorld as visitor but this time, and for the first time he participated as Exhibitor to present his new ciders. It is a shame that he didn’t enter any of his ciders to CiderWorldAward as I’m sure he would get Gold. I’m referring to the Jung Cider 2022 Ochsenthal. This cider had a very strong and lovely aroma of freshly pressed apples and despite the high level of sweetness, I thought it was mind-blowing. I kept sending others to try ciders made by Manfred, and everyone was perplex how good Manfred’s ciders can be.

The Kystin team from France

Kystin– Sascha comes originally from Normandy but his business is based in Brittany. Kystin is famous for aging cidre in chestnut barrels which adds a lovely chestnut flavour to cidre and contributes enormously to the complexity. I remember trying their cidre during one of the previous CiderWorld’s and at Joran Cidrotheque, a cider bar in Brussels. This time, I sampled several products of Kystin. And, I thought they were all spectacular but the Ble Noir Torrefie, a cidre made with buckwheat was the clear winner for me. Buckwheat contributed to the overall complexity without covering the apple character. A one of a kind offering that I will review on my blog soon.

The lovely team of Malner Cider from Slovenia

Malner Cider – who’d ever thought they make cider in Slovenia? Malner Cider is made up by a brother and sister Maja and Boštjan Pečar, who make cider from locally grown dessert apples. Their cider won Honour at this year’s CiderWorldAward’23 and I thought it was really a properly made cider with a very strong aroma of dessert apple. I keep fingers crossed for their next products as you can clearly see that they have a potential to make fantastic stuff. And, from what I saw, their cider received a very positive feedback from the audience during this event .

Angelo and Martin at Obstbau Ciampa

Obstbau Ciampa– Angelo and Martin are based in Hesse and actually this is the first time I have ever heard of them. They entered their Spätlese von Altrain to CiderWorld Award’23 and won Gold. I was sceptical at first as traditional Frankfurter Apfelwein does not always seem appealing. But to my surprise, the Spätlese von Altrain rather reminded me of English scrumpy with a bit higher acidity than the English counterpart. I literally fell in love with this product and wasn’t surprised at all that it won Gold. Another their product, a singlevarietal Croncels (made with Transparent de Croncels) turned out to be even more appealing to my palate as it had lower level of residual sweetness and significantly more tannins. I hope Apfelweins of the guys from Obstbau Ciampa will be available soon near me as I thought both products were so good that I could drink them every day. What a joy!

Quinta de Moscadinha – cider aged in Madeira wine barrel

Quinta de Moscadinha – Until two months ago, when I was invited to be a member of the jury panel of the Natural Cider International Competition in Madeira 2023. I didn’t even know that cider has been made in Madeira, Portugal for 500 yrs now! And, at CiderWorld’23 was the first time I was actually sampling a cider coming from Madeira! Quinta de Moscadinha was established in 1910 and their cider is aged in Madeira wine barrels. Needless to say that I thought this offering was brilliant due to fruity notes and aromas coming from aging in barrels. A really unique offering with an unforgettable taste. Looks that Madeira cider is a hidden gem! Unfortunately, Quinta de Moscadinha. didn’t have a booth this year but their products were available in the Spotlight zone (for cidermakers who entered a product but couldn’t participate physically in CiderWorld’23).

Stahringer Streuobstmosterei from Germany, close to Lake Constance is a family business that received Gold for their Birnoh, a pommeu-type product but made with pear brandy and pear juice instead of cidre and apple juice. If I remember correctly, they Birnoh aged 5 years in an oak barrel. Imagine how much patience they have to have! Indeed, one of a kind product with lovely fruitc flavours of pear, smooth tannins and a touch of barrel-aging. And, Birnoh can also be used as a base for cocktails.

Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to a producer who won Gold in the category Non-Alcoholic, Obstparadies Manufaktur with their Paradies-Prockler Apfel-Mostbirne-Eberesche. As I found out later, my jury panel gave Gold to them. Their product was lovely fruity, complex with strong and delicious aromas. I didn’t make it to their booth but they deserve to be mentioned here.

If you belong to the cider makers who I, unfortunately, didn’t visit at CiderWorld’23 and feel neglected, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to review your cider, perry or any other beverage made with fruits.

Closing remarks

CiderWorld in Frankfurt, Germany has been the most anticipated cider trade show for me since I participated in CiderWorld and in the CiderWorld Award for the first time in 2018. Why do I always count down the days until CiderWorld? Not only because it is a great chance to sample cider from new cider makers, new vintages of ciders or new releases. There is much more to that. This is also about networking with people who share a passion for cider, catch up with old cider friends (Tom Oliver-the man does no need any introduction; Gabe Cook – The Ciderologist; Darlene Hayes – Allintocider; Edu Coto -Cider Guerilla; Manfred Böhm – Böhm Ciderwerkstatt, Sebastian – Cider Journey, Frank Winkler –Daheim im Lorsbacher Thal, Haritz Rodriguez – Ciderlands; Magdalena Eger – Floribunda; Pet Elderton – Cider House; Jens Becker –Apfelweinhandlung; Christoph Walter- Bembel uff Tour; Florian Profitlich at Gutshof Kraatz, Phil Kennedy – CiderCask) and finally being able to meet those who I only exchanged messages before (Alistair – Cider is Wine; Barry at Kertelereiter, or Christian at Apfeltau). To give a taste how CiderWorld looked like in previous years, please refer to my recaps from last visits to CiderWorld’18, CiderWorld’19 and CiderWorld’22 And, of CiderWorld’21 Award.

We all know that Corona had a destroying impact on interpersonal contacts but judging from the this year’s participants of CiderWorld and the number of visitors I have a feeling that it is slowly getting back to normal (almost). Although this year there were plenty of networking occasions, many more than last year, I have a feeling that I could stay at least one day longer and exchange about cider, cidermaking and try a few more ciders. During these three days of CiderWorld I could see literally that time flies as I couldn’t speak with everyone I planned to or try cider I was hoping to finally get taste of.

In summary, I simply love CiderWorld. Meeting old and new friends, watching the cider scene grow, how cidermakers improve over the time like Manfred Böhm, seeing new cider makers being established – Obstbau Ciampa also from non-classical cider countries such as Slovenia, discussing about perry pears and Kveik yeast with Barry Masterson, learning about the problems each of the cider makers is facing in their own country and sampling new ciders this all always make me feel alive and help me look positive in the cider future despite so many challenges. Thank you Michael and Christine for organising CiderWorld’23! I already look forward to CiderWorld’24.


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