Although we have been making cider here since 2011, we haven't made time to write about our experience. In fact it is only now that we feel we have something to say on the subject. It seems as if the act of making cider has helped us realise exactly what it is we are trying to achieve.
In essence; it all comes down to a sense of place. We aim to capture the character of the individual orchards in each of the ciders that we make.
These orchards were planted seventy or more years ago when cider was a central part of rural life and the farms producing the best cider attracted the best workers. Cider was once part of a workers daily wage, known as truck, and "a two gallon man was said to be worth the extra he drank"! Villages would compete at local competitions for the honour of having the best cider and the annual cider trials at Long Ashton and more recently at the Bath and West show were attended by thousands.
Why do we feel that a sense of place is so important? Hasn't cider become a mass-produced homogenised product where the aim for consistency has obliterated the character of fruit from different regions and orchards?
Well this is the strange dichotomy, As the popularity of the commercial white ciders have increased, and the major brand owners have pumped huge sums into marketing, so there has been a renewed interest in the artisan or craft side of the category. With all boats rising on a rising tide there has been a wave of interest in real ciders made by real people. These producers collect and press apples in a way that would not seem unfamiliar to a cider producer from a century ago. The presses and barrels haven't changed much and although there have been welcome advances in the science of cider making the basics remain the same.
Unlike the giant commercial producers who have to deliver a product all year round, craft cider makers pick apples in the autumn and press the years harvest in one go and that will be their production for the year. Craft ciders are made from 100% whole juice with no water added. Many commercial brands are really just fermented US corn syrup flavoured with concentrated apple juice and sweetened up to mask the chemical flavour.
Sorry for this slight detour but it is necessary to set the scene if we are going to explore what it is we are trying to do. Going back to the orchards - wiser people than me planted them and I am lucky enough to benefit from their knowledge and care and the heritage that we have access to is one where each orchard is made up of a range of trees producing fruit with different levels of acidity, sugar (for alcohol) and tannin. These three elements are the paints in the cider makers pallet. Too much acid and the cider will be unapproachable and thin, too much tannin and it will be bitter and astringent, not enough sugar and it will lack the alcohol needed for ageing and body.
Each of our three orchard blends contains all of these elements in differing quantities yet each can be said to be in balance and conveys the character of the orchard. This notion of Terroir or the sense of place is what we hope to capture.