As farmers head into orchards and vineyards for the yearly harvest, many people are unaware of the similarities between cider apples and wine grapes. Both fruits thrive with ideal natural growing conditions and boast thousands of different flavorful varieties; hard apple cider was even served as an alternative to Champagne after World War II, according to White Plains, N.Y.-based Heineken USA.

Strongbow Hard Apple Ciders, a brand of Heineken USA, introduced a new Artisanal Blend that is a toast to heirloom cider apples captured in a lively, semi-sweet cider, appealing to both cider lovers and wine drinkers, the company says.

"Our generations-old cider-making tradition is about celebrating the purity and farm-fresh natural flavors of the apples we care for in our orchards," said Paul van der Aar, master brewer at Heineken USA, in a statement. "We combine old-world simplicity with modern skill and artistry to blend the apples for a consistent, complex-yet-approachable flavor that perfectly balances sharpness, natural sweetness and bitterness."

The time is ripe for Strongbow's new Artisanal Blend, as blends have become increasingly popular among young wine enthusiasts, it says.

The cider makers at Strongbow experimented by mixing apples from their own orchards to perfect the flavor profile in Artisanal Blend. In the end, the heirloom varieties Dabinett, Major and Harry Master's Jersey are featured, it says. These three varieties come together with the ripe notes of the apples' natural sweetness balanced by the flavor of grassy earth and an acidic pop of tartness, the company says. Layers of aroma that evoke kiwi, melon and mango stimulate the senses while bubbles provide the palate with a crisp refreshing taste, it adds. The blend also has a rustic hazy appearance that harkens back to past generations. The sessionable cider is 6 percent alcohol by volume, gluten free and has 181 calories in each 11.2-ounce serving.

Artisanal Blend joins the Strongbow family of award-winning ciders including Gold Apple, Cherry Blossom and Orange Blossom. Each of the varieties contain no artificial flavors or colors. Artisanal Blend is available in dedicated six-pack bottles, variety 12-packs and variety 24-packs. All Strongbow flavors are available in limited-edition, mini-can four-packs for a suggested retail price of $1 in most markets.