A world-first "trust mark" for craft cider lets drinkers identify ciders made with 100 per cent Australian-grown fruit.
Craft ciders made purely from Australian fruit comprise less than 15 per cent of the cider market.
Many consumers may not be aware that mass-produced ciders – the other 85 per cent of the market – are often made from powdered concentrate, most commonly from China, says the president of Cider Australia, Sam Reid.
"It's a pretty astounding statistic for people who come across it for the first time," he says. "If a wine drinker was told they were drinking wine from imported concentrate, they'd freak out – it just wouldn't happen.
"Anyone who thinks about it probably just assumes it's all made from Australian apples, but the reality is most people don't really even think about asking where the fruit in their cider comes from."
Reid hopes the new certification program will double the market share of Australian ciders to nearly a third within the next five years.
"I'm convinced that 30 per cent of drinkers will be interested in where the fruit comes from and will make a conscious choice to pay a little bit more for something that is a bit more premium, unique and higher quality," he says.
The initiative aims to increase consumer support for Australian fruit growers, boosting jobs in the craft cider industry and helping regional communities in the process.
The concept was revealed in October at the Australian Cider Awards in Sydney, which showcased local cider's complexity and sophistication.
"Cider is a fruit wine, made from the juice of apples," Reid says. "There's a lot of substance to discovering and tasting wine and I think cider can have all of that. Unfortunately it's just never attracted that kind of thinking. It's been seen primarily as a young person's drink."
The catalyst has been the introduction of cider apple varieties into orchards across Australia, pioneered by producers such as Henry of Harcourt in Victoria and Red Sails Cider in Tasmania.
Otherwise, craft cider is generally produced from the same varieties of apples you would find in your local supermarket – fine for simple refreshment, but offering little for drinkers to ponder over.
"There's no doubt getting hold of the right fruit and proper cider apples makes such a difference in your ability to make great cider and bring a load of different flavours into the cider category," Reid says.
Reid's own company, Willie Smith's Cider, has helped popularise the use of cider apples by taking out the best in show category at the Australian Cider Awards on three occasions, starting in 2015 with "18 Varieties", comprised purely of cider apple varieties.
"When we won it for the second year, that just seemed to ignite people's imagination and I've heard of a load of people putting cider apples in the ground since then," he says.
This year it was a single variety cider, Kingston Black, that propelled Willie Smith's to win best in show and most successful larger producer at the awards.
Small Acres Cyder of Nashdale, near Orange in NSW, planted its orchard of cider variety apples in 2007. The investment has paid off with multiple awards, including most successful smaller producer this year.
"When you're using cider variety apples you can get a more textured, more complex style of what I call 'apple wine'," says Small Acres founder James Kendall. "The more textured, wine-like ciders are just head and shoulders above the rest. They're much better to drink, they're much easier to match with food."
Small Acres has produced ciders that are blends of multiple varieties, including its "methode traditionelle" sparkling cider, The Cat's Pyjamas.
"We've always been of the mind that blending the cider varieties is the best option, but we're starting to have a look at what we can do along the lines of single varietal ciders," Kendall says.
"I'm a particular fan of the Stoke Red as a single varietal cider. It has a good balance of tannins, acidity, sweetness and lovely earthy characters."
Cider Australia vice-president Warwick Billings says a new category, "medium sweet", was added to this year's awards to accommodate recent style trends.
"The tendency is to get slightly drier; there's probably less of the really sweet ciders. I think the consumer palate is possibly maturing a bit and the market is responding," he says.
Cider variety apples create a more complex 'apple wine'. Photo: Supplied
Five ciders to try
Willie Smith's Cider Kingston Black
Winner of best in show at this year's Australian Cider Awards, Kingston Black displays intensely lifted, fresh green apple and sherbet aromas.
Spreyton Cider Co Vintage Cider
Made using 100 per cent cider apple varieties, Vintage offers rich traditional cider flavours. It is bottle fermented to deliver a fine bead and a delicate mousse.
Small Acres Cyder The Cat's Pyjamas 2015
Only made in years when the cider apple fruit is at its absolute best, The Cat's Pyjamas gains extra complexity from fermentation on solids, lees stirring and long maturation.
Lobo Cider Royale
Cider apples bring a gentle tannin structure and finish to this elegant French-style cider, packed with flavour at a modest 3.8 per cent ABV.
Granite Belt Cider Co Treehouse Cider
This gold-medal-winning medium dry cider balances red and green culinary apple varieties for an end product that is not too sweet and offers ample refreshment.