The following is an excerpt from an article that was originally published in Issue 2 of inCiderJapan magazine.
There are over 2000 varieties of apples growing in Japan. Here is a short introduction to some of the most common and notable cultivars in the present Japanese cider making scene.
Fuji is by far the main apple cultivar in Japan. Despite being a popular eating apple and flagship product of Aomori prefecture, it actually turns out to be pretty challenging for cideries. Due to its very high sugar content (~15 Brix), its full fermentation leads to a strong ABV of about 8% while its lack of acidity (~4 pH) and low tannins can cause a fairly bland flavor profile. Also, the common use of Champagne yeast by local wineries tends to lead to a dry mouthfeel, no residual sugar and a light sparkling body with minimal apple character.
One of Fuji’s notorious sibling cultivars, Ohrin, shares very similar specifications. Nevertheless, a few Japanese cider producers have managed to create flavorful 100% Fuji ciders such as Edelwein’s “Hime Kozakura”, a cloudy cider using Iwate Sun-Fuji (“Sun” meaning unbagged cultivation) and slow bottle fermentation (Méthode Rurale).