Monday, 12 April 2010

Herefordshire Cider Trip... Part 2

If you are planning on visiting cider makers in Herefordshire, I can give you several tips to make the experience worthwhile:

  1. Don’t trust your Sat Nav to actually get you to the location!
  2. Allow several days to get round them – on average 2-3 a day is a max, especially if you intend to drive to them!
  3. Make sure you call ahead to ask permission to visit. Even using the ‘Cider Route’ guide, the odds are that a number of the cider makers are small and not always around (Greggs Pit is a good example).

When I planned to visit a few, I was worried that these cider makers would be wary of a ‘hobbyist’ or ‘wannabe’ commercial producer visiting with lots of technical questions. Not so, I have to say that every cider maker I met in Herefordshire was welcoming, knowledgeable and really generous with their time.

My last trip out was to meet two more artisan producers. Once Upon a Tree are a relatively new artisan producer based in Putley. Whilst the chief cider maker, Simon Day, wasn’t available I met up with Norman who owns the farm and Dragon Orchard. This time, I opted to be up front about my own cider making, and also about the Cider Workshop (after all, evangelising about the Workshop is never a chore to me!!). Norman was incredibly generous, showing me around and talking me through the way in which they craft their cider and perry. Craft is the right word to use, as they ferment each variety of apple and pear separately, only mixing them up at blending time.I loved the way that they present their cider in a similar fashion to wine – opting for 750ml wine bottles and still cider, I can wholly recommend it for its clean taste. Its definitely a cider with a purpose, seeming to know exactly what it wants to be and how it wants to taste. Sometimes, I feel my own cider cannot make up its mind and tries to taste like everything!

So, another lesson learned. I probably get too many different varieties to separate them all. However, I can separate cider from desert much better – and I may well try this out next year.

One other recommendation. Once Upon a Tree make a fantastic desert cider from Blenheim Orange apples. This is done by freezing the juice and only fermenting a third that thaws. A bit like apple jack in method, but the taste is incredibly sweet and smooth.

And so on to my final destination, Lyne Down Cider. And another contrast. Whilst both Greggs Pit and Once Upon a Tree really try to craft cider to particular styles (and do well at it too), Lyne Down makes cider to sell – pure and simple, no fuss and very few frills.

Mark, who owns Lyne Down, met me at the gate to his newly built cider house and ‘in progress’ shop and picnic area. I had a feeling it would be rather posh but Mark was very grounded and much more ‘business like’ about his cider business. His operation had more in common with New Forest Cider than the others I had seen locally – vats of cider (although there were single variety Stoke Red and another of Yarlington Mill. He also had the same stone bedded press as Greggs Pitt, although this is to be replaced something more hydraulic later this year.

Mark was, once again, really open and helpful with his knowledge of cider craft. I now have a plan for racking cider that will take out a lot of fuss, bother and errant lees! He also had a couple of 1500 litre tanks for sale – which I can just see in my cider garage!!

As all the others, the meeting ended with a tasting. This cider tasted a lot more like my own, albeit in a Western style that I do not go for. The blend contained many varieties of apple – not the few that the others used, and although this meant that there was less ‘impact’ of individual types of apple (others were very definitely sharp – although these ones usually contained a significant proportion of Browns Apple which is a full sharp cider apple).

So, an enjoyable and educational trip... lets just see how this affects what I take to Putley in May!!!

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