Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: November 2, 2023

What’s the Difference Between Cider and Wine?

The obvious answer that one is made from apples, while the other is made of grapes.

While that’s true, it’s only one of many differences between the two. There’s also the fact that, while it isn’t very common, you can also make wine out of apples, too.

For the sake of clarity, we’re generally going to ignore non-alcoholic cider and non-alcoholic wine, as they could be an entire subject for another day.

Let's get into it!

The Differences Between Cider And Wine

Besides, usually being made with two different fruits, there are other key differences to mention. 

The Fermentation Process

The fermentation process for both cider and wine is pretty similar, despite many different ingredients being used exclusively for each. However, that doesn’t mean that the fermentation process is exactly the same. For example, the process for wine takes a lot longer, which can result in different alcohol contents and more, which we’ve covered in more detail below.

Cider and Wine Types

This is another one of the more obvious differences, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. Cider typically comes in two forms, cider, and hard cider, while a wine comes in three, red, white and rosé. The only difference in the two ciders is the fact that hard cider goes through the fermentation process, so it has an alcohol content.

No matter the type, all wines go through the fermentation process, so they all have an alcohol content. This leads us perfectly into our next difference, which is:

Alcohol Content

Obviously, this doesn’t affect non-alcoholic cider, so we’re going to leave that aside. That, being said, though, there is a major difference in alcohol content between Cider and Wine. Cider usually has an alcohol content of between 3% and 8%, depending on the distiller, etc.

Wine, on the other hand, is typically more alcoholic than cider, no matter which type of wine it is. Depending on the distiller, wines alcohol content normally ranges between 9% and 12%, meaning that almost every wine is at least slightly more alcoholic than cider.

Obviously, you might find either cider or wine outside of those ranges, but generally speaking, they tend to stay in that range. Because of that, you won’t regularly be finding an average cider that has more alcohol than average wine. According to some reports, in many countries, cider isn’t legally considered a cider unless it’s within that particular range, which is why you won’t generally find it outside of that.

Sugar Content

This is one of the few differences between cider and wine that people might find a little bit surprising. It’s also one of the core differences that is a direct result of the difference in fermentation between the two. Because of its shorter fermentation time, cider normally has higher sugar content. The normal range for sugar content for cider is between 6% and 15%.

On the other hand, the sugar content for wine is normally around 2%, but some of them go as low as 0.7%. This is because, the longer the process goes on, the more sugar that’s used up. Because of that, there’s less sugar in the final product. The sugar generally ferments throughout the entire process and is one of the main reasons why the alcohol content for wine is a lot higher than it is for cider.

The Differences Between Apple Cider And Apple Wine

We mentioned above how wine is typically made out of grapes, but that isn’t always the case. For example, there’s also the case of apple wine, which then leads to the question of the differences between apple cider and apple wine. In order to demonstrate the difference, we first need to highlight how hard apple cider is actually made.

Apple cider is typically made by crushing the apples and then putting them through the fermentation process. This can be done through a variety of methods, but generally speaking, it’s similar enough to how wine is fermented, except for the key differences that we mentioned above.

These basically entail pasteurizing the cider, if that hasn't already been done, tossing some yeast into the mixture, sealing it, and monitoring how much gas it's letting off. After that, you just let it sit for a while, and then begin draining it off into bottles or glasses. The only real difference between different ciders is what kind of flavorings etc. are used throughout the process.

The fermentation process for apple wine, however, isn’t much different. All of the core parts are essentially the same, except for the fact that the wine is left to ferment for longer. It also typically uses a lot more sugar throughout the entire process. Despite that, however, the final product still generally has a lower sugar content than typical cider, due to the fact that most of the sugar is used up during the fermentation process.

The extra sweetener helps the apple wine to ferment for longer and is one of the main drivers that help bring the alcohol content range, depending on how long you let it ferment for. This ends up creating a number of other differences in the final products, for example:

Alcohol Content

We’ve already mentioned that the extra fermentation time and sugar help boost apple wines alcohol content; generally speaking, it brings it up to the 12% to 14% range, which is quite a jump compared to traditional hard cider.

As we covered above, hard cider is normally below 8%, as in some countries, if it’s above that, then it’s legally not considered a cider, according to a number of reports. Because of that, despite using apples, that’s why apple wine is technically considered wine, despite resembling a cider with a longer fermentation process.


The difference in appearance between cider and wine is just as crisp here. Depending on the distiller, cider can have one of several different appearances; however, they’re fundamentally similar to each other in a number of ways. Cider can go from cloudy to clear, and it is available in a variety of shades, from colorless or brownish. Aside from filtration, the changes in the color of cider greatly depend on the apple varieties used during the manufacturing process.

Aside from the different apple varieties, the only main differences in appearances are down to certain changes in the fermentation process.

The appearance of apple wine – and wine in general – couldn’t be much more different. Wine normally isn’t cloudy in nature, and this is also true for apple wine. Having said that, the color of apple wine is somewhat of a mix between cider and typical wine, with the apples having a certain effect of the final appearance of it.

This is typical of wine, however; wines generally get their appearance and color from what’s used to create it; stained grapes for Rosé, dark grape skins for red and non-colored pulp for white wine.


The taste difference between cider and wine is pretty palpable, but what about between these two? Surprisingly, the taste difference between these two is almost as clear as it is between cider and regular wine. While apple wine obviously has an apple-like taste, it’s still more bitter than a typical cider, due to the longer fermentation process and the reduced sugar content.

As we mentioned at the beginning, there are a lot of key differences between cider and wine, and we’re betting that you might have found some of them slightly surprising. Having said that, at least now you’re aware of the key differences between apple cider, wine, and apple wine, and you might be able to consider yourself a bit of an expert.

Bottom Line

There are various differences between cider and wine. From alcoholic content to color and flavor, the two drinks are quite diverse. Not only cider and wine are different on their own, but there are also important differences between cider and apple wine. 

In the end, it all comes down to preference. Do you enjoy the crisp, refreshing flavors of cider? Then go for it! Do you want to enjoy a lighter or fuller body white or red wine, that's fine too. 

Remember, what matters the most is that you enjoy whatever beverage you have in front of you! So, Cin-Cin!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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