Monday 12 April 2010

Herefordshire Cider Trip... Part 1

Easter holidays! Just back from a 5 day trip to the Forest of Dean with some friends. Not only did the weather hold out for us, it was a perfect ‘pre-Putley Cider Trials’ preparation... and it left me wanting to strive to make my cider as professional as possible!

There was only time to visit 4-5 producers (this was a family holiday, after all!), and we started with the surprising choice of Westons, and by contrast the much smaller operation of Greggs Pit. Both are found in Much Marcle – to some, the Mecca of Ciderland... in reality its a small place you could easily drive straight through on the bendy A449.
Westons provide a tourist attraction in itself, with farm animals, a playground, cafe and shop. They even had a bottle museum (bottle collection is more accurate). Whilst the children cooed at the animals, I took my friend on the cider tour to see how things were done.

Some may baulk at the idea of going round an industrial cider producer (I have never really been comfortable with the term ‘industrial’. In fact, you can see that the principles don’t change – apples must be collected, washed and milled, pressed and the juice must ferment. However, this could be hard to see, as the scale and methods are simply much larger and more, well, industrial. Although the topic of chapitalising never came up (and I promised myself not to be so provocative), there was no real effort to hide the fact – one of the guides at the tasting even said “it all starts at 11%”. However, on finding out that they produce more than 4 million gallons per year, with 15,000 tons of apples, the little animal in me had to do the maths on my Blackberry to work it out. Oh, and for those who like to be right about a producer like Westons, even a 75% yield of juice would only make 2.5 million gallons.

Still, its horses for courses and you cannot argue that they aren’t good at what they do. At the tasting, whilst avoiding the ‘stock’ Stowford Press, the Vintage and Extra Dry were very pleasant.

Going on to Greggs Pit (which had been arranged the day before), we found one of the owners, James Marsden, very welcoming. What it must be like to live with a view of an old pear orchard!

After showing us round the orchard, where the trees were almost ready to burst open with blossom, and the apple orchard to the rear of the house – 4-5 perfectly formed lines of standard fruit trees, we moved on to the production and storage area.

My first thought was – this isn’t a whole lot bigger than the area I have for making and storing cider. However, any idea that this would be a like for like comparison vanished when I saw the stainless variable tanks and storage/bottling area. Most of Gregg’s Pitt’s cider and perry is produced by keeving (or, as James preferred, bouche method). This is something I have never tried before (although one of my fermentations naturally produced a cap of pectin – which leaves the juice with fewer nutrients for the yeast and therefore prolongs the fermentation).

We tried several types of perry, including two seasons of the same blend. James was particularly enthusiastic about his perry. Unfortunately, my knowledge of perry is very limited, but it was incredibly light and fruity.

I wanted to do the visit’s without coming across as a ‘cider bore’, mentioning the Cider Workshop - which I feared would lead me to be judged a ‘cider bore’, or mention that I am taking part in the Putley trials – which I feared may label me not only a ‘cider bore’ but also a philistine from Hampshire!

Whilst I think I probably failed on all counts (after about 5 minutes at Greggs Pit I was handed a Putley Blossomtime Festival leaflet and announced I intended to take part), I made every effort to listen to the tips that Jams so freely gave me. I am not sure I have the budget for the stainless tanks, but I will make sure I try for slow fermentations with all my ciders in future!

No comments:

Post a Comment