Low Spray Rosé: Alternative Fruits for Rosé Cider Production

Final report for ONC20-075

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $39,922.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Ohio State University-Ashtabula ARS
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Andrew Kirk
Ohio State University-Ashtabula ARS
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Project Information


This project brought together a team of researchers, extension personnel, and family orchard operations for the purpose of establishing optimal practices in the production of Rosé cider from sustainable berry crops. The proposed effort is in recognition of the strong growth in the Rosé cider market segment and a desire from our industry partners to meet this demand without adopting intensive fungicide and insecticide programs. Project efforts were multi-level, involving extension programming, applied research trials, and community networking for local growers.

Extension activities included the 2021 AARS field day, in Kingsville, Ohio, which was attended by 70 individuals. The planting of Black Currants has become a regular feature of educational tours held at the research station for growers and community members alike. More than 40 such tours have been conducted since the research trials began. These trials related to identifying pest and disease thresholds for berry fruit, such as Black Currants, destined for cider production, as opposed to fresh consumption. Additional trials involved preliminary work towards establishing optimal processing and blending techniques for Rosé cider. Community outreach, through an expansion of the Ohio Hard Cider Guild, provided networking opportunities for growers and cider producers seeking to venture into the market for fruit ciders.

Our project facilitated discussion with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to review the legality of growing Black Currants in Ohio, a practice long restricted due to concern over White Pine Blister Rust. AARS hosted ODA leadership in 2020 and 2021 to discuss this issue and others. In 2021, Black Currants became an unrestricted crop in Ohio, for a variety of reasons, but in part due to the positive attention brought to the crop by this project and others.

We expect the dividends of this project to be long-term in nature. At the outset of this project, we observed a lack of familiarity with Black Currants and similar berry fruits in the local fruit growing and gardening community. Through our interactions over time, we have raised the level of awareness of this berry type. We are aware of one significant planting scheduled for 2026, and numerous local gardeners who have begun to cultivate Black Currants. We have been able to give them guidance on species selection and horticultural considerations such as spray program and training systems.

Project Objectives:
  • Provide best practice guidance to Midwestern fruit growers on berry cultivation for the production of Rosé cider.

We expect to publish a fact sheet in the OSU system in 2024 with guidance on Black Currant production including variety selection, horticultural attributes, and processing considerations.

  • Evaluate and compare red fleshed apples and various berry fruits on the basis of hard cider quality metrics. 

We conducted a Black Currant variety trial and have gathered information on the juice attributes of various varieties.

  • Determine optimal processing and blending techniques for Rosé cider production from various fruit sources

We conducted preliminary fruit processing trials and have shared this information with our community of fruit growers and cider makers.

  • Expand networking opportunities for cider-focused fruit growers through Field Days, Workshops, and participatory evaluation events. 

Our group conducted numerous events focused on cider production and small fruit production.


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  • Dr. Diane Miller (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Our project has set up a black currant variety trial at the Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station. This planting has demonstrated the general suitability of various Black Currant varieties for low-spray horticultural production in NE Ohio. We have selected varieties of varying levels of resistance to White Pine Blister Rust. This is a key pest and potential limitation to the use of Black Currant as a low spray crop in cider. Sprays were not made to the plot. Plant size and survival rate was recorded by AARS staff. Harvest weights were collected in 2022.

Our project has also collected juice data for these projects. Brix, pH, Titratable Acidity, and Total Phenolics were measured from 2022 juice.

Research results and discussion:

Group samples for each variety demonstrated modest differences in juice chemistry across the 4 Black Currant varieties (Table 1). In particular, Ben Sarek demonstrated a notably lower level of soluble solids in this sample. Generally, the level of Titratable Acidity (TA) in these juice samples was extremely high compared to what would be expected from typical fruit used for Rosé cider. An optimal range of Titratable Acidity for a grape wine would be between 6-8 g/L. Total Phenolics was relatively consistent between varieties, though notably high relative to fruits such as grape or apple.

Table 1: Black Currant Juice Chemistry, By Variety, 2022 Harvest


Soluble Solids (Brix)

Titratable Acidity (TA, grams of Citric Acid/L)


Total Phenolics (Galic Acid Equivalents, mg/L)

Ben Sarek

























AARS staff collected data on plant growth performance from the trial. The size of the plants, as well as mortality, after 3 years was measured in March 2023. The varieties Consort and Titania tended to perform the best, with no plant mortality and a tendency towards larger plant size.

Table 2: Black Currant Plant Size and Mortality


Plant Mortality (%, At 3 Years)

Height (Inches)


(North-South) (Inches)


 (East-West) (Inches)

Ben Sarek

5 %





10 %





0 %





2.5 %





0 %




Yield was collected from the Black Currant varieties in 2022.

Table 2: Black Currant Yield by Variety  


Weight (Lbs) Total

Weight (Lbs) Per Plant

Ben Sarek















Generally, our findings suggest that Blackdown is likely not a suitable variety choice for a low intervention growing program in Ohio. Conversely, the variety Titania performed well on every metric collected including plant survival, juice chemistry, yield, and plant size. Across the board, the yield of these plants would be considered small for other commercial fruit crops. However, the juice is so rich in features such as phenols and acidity that a relatively small amount could have a significant impact in a juicing operation.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

30 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
10 On-farm demonstrations
2 Online trainings
15 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

20 Farmers participated
12 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

This project featured regularly in our extension programming for several years and will continue to do so. Members of the public have demonstrated a keen interest in learning more about Currants as a Rosé additive in cider and wine. This was demonstrated by the number of tours and educational events which incorporated these plantings. Student groups from the Ashtabula Career and technical campus and Kent State University Ashtabula toured the plantings on a yearly basis from 2020-2023. In 2020 and 2021, three virtual events involved the project, which was new at that time. In June 2020 and June 2022, Mr. Kirk delivered presentations to the Ashtabula County Master Gardeners on the new Black Currant planting, and the horticultural attributes of the species.  In April 2021, our group did a virtual cider showcase with members of the Ohio Cider Guild. The emphasis was on Rose' ciders, predominantly from Red Fleshed Apples. Our crew drove cider samples to locations throughout the state to facilitate a virtual tasting. The tasting was attended by 15 cider-makers from throughout the state. Ciders were evaluated and the participants and OSU team discussed technical notes regarding the processing decisions.

In February 2022, the OSU team highlighted work done by this project during a presentation at the 2022 Ohio Grape and Wine Conference, entitled "Update On Projects at the Ashtabula Agricultural Research Station". The aims of this project were discussed, with an emphasis on the connection with grape as a source of color in Rose' cider. In November 2022, the project team convened the Ohio Cider Guild for a technical session on producing Rosé and other emerging types of cider. 

Mr. Kirk has done consultations for cidermakers and berry fruit growers throughout the state in  During 2020-2023, project personnel hosted numerous representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, a member of the Ohio State Legislature, and various members of the local community on matters relating to this project. As of 2023, several local Currant plantings were on track for installation and project personnel have consulted with numerous entrants into the growing cider industry. Many are growers of other crops who are considering entering into the cider industry and are interested in potential fruit sources.


Learning Outcomes

10 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
5 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

We are continuing to build our sustainable hard cider program. This project was  an important piece, in demonstrating the potential for Rose' cider to be made from alternative and environmentally friendly fruit sources. We have had numerous events and expanded our network of producers to meet the demand for information for alternative fruits.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.