Happy World Apple Cider Day!
Yes, like you, I did not brilliantly realize that the somewhat pseudo-date of June 3rd had been assigned this honor. It’s (and for once I’m not kidding) neatly located between the day of roast chicken and the hug of your cat’s day. But, any occasion that champions the wonderful world of cider is for me, so I’m going to celebrate by opening a 2015 refrigerated bottle of Eric Bordelet Poiré. cheers!
The celebration of world cider this weekend is so touching that I have been brought back home over the past week with the wonders of the people and products of the global community. I had the privilege of coordinating the International Cider Contest at the Royal Bath & West Show which was held in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Entries were received from Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland. And it was a bottle of cider fermented across the Irish Sea that took home the top champ award. Warm congratulations to the dedicated folk at the Johnny Falldown Cider in County Cork on the Wild Apple Bouché Cider. This was a beautifully balanced, naturally sparkling wine juice made with fruit from a tree that is over 100 years old. She was fertile, and she really deserved the championship.
Willie Smith of Tasmania, Australia, was awarded the Reserve Champion for the Kingston Black SV, very convenient given that the competition was held only 30 miles from the site of origin of this venerable variety of apple. The gold medals were also awarded to a fine selection of ciders, which reached a full range of flavors and styles. Notable, to me, is a barrel of Pinot Noir ripe with cider from Nomad Cider in British Columbia, Canada, and Natural Sidra from El Gaitero in Asturias, Spain. A full list of medal winners can be found here on the Royal Bath and West website.
Oftentimes here, in Ciderland, I feel like we take our wonderful heritage, timeless orchards and wonderful ciders for granted. I wonder if we’ve gotten a little more satisfied with some of our cider offerings. I often find many advocates of cider in the UK to be rather mediocre – average in colour, tannin levels, acidity, sweetness, complexity and fruity. I must say there is nothing more disappointing than seeing “medium sweetness and excellent cider” on the shelf. We have the opportunity to create cider with this boldness, intensity, and subtlety, but simplicity seems to be the order of the day.
Western cider and fruit culture is the envy of other parts of the world and revered in a high degree of reverence, with many viewing Royal Bath and West Shaw as the pinnacle of succulents. That is why some producers have made a pilgrimage to the show for several years. Angry Orchard’s Ryan Burke has been coming to the show since 2010, while ANXO co-founder Sam Fitz first attended in 2015. They were both at Shipton again, but this year they’ve brought their own teams with them, spreading their love of cider to the next. A generation of world cider champions. It is always a pleasure to spend time with such knowledgeable and passionate people.
It’s this immersion in “Old World” cider culture, combined with the progressive fermentation and processing skills that enable “New World” cider makers to make such a wonderful beverage. I had the opportunity to take on stage at the fair telling the assemblers the great and the good about the International Cider Contest, great selection of drinks and standard quality. I used my platform to launch a metaphorical grenade by commenting that in my view some of the best ciders made around the world were actually coming from outside the western country. My assertion was, rather nicely, met with some pretty cool party boos. I was surprised to be allowed into the viewing area the next day!
There are some who think that I no longer like ciders in the UK because of my advocacy of ciders a lot from elsewhere in the world. This, of course, is the absolute poppy plant. For me, nothing would be able to beat a new season, Thorne Berry made a little sparkling at the sight of My Hill; Two-year-old Yarlington Mill, or Ashton Bitter Dry-fermented Mill and Bone. My passion for cider and berries stems entirely from the orchard culture at The Shire. My love for this place and this tradition is what drives me every day.
It just so happens that many interesting conversations and movements within the global cider world happen outside of these shores. I’m a little curious and want to see what happens. But, rest assured, UK cider is starting to get the mojo back. Events like The Cider Salon and The MA Cider Summit, and cheese and cider pairing events from cool people like The Cellarman take things to the next level.
And finally… It was great to see Jackie Denman, founder of The Big Apple in Herefordshire, receive the prestigious Gold Medal from the Royal Bath and West Society for nearly 30 years of her dedication to celebrating orchards, varietals, ciders and berries made in Markle Ridge parishes. in Herefordshire. Bravo Jackie!