Have you been drinking our cider this summer? It's not too late to start!
Cider is perhaps the world’s most misunderstood and unfairly maligned drink. Long regarded as cheap and nasty, it once rivalled the very best French wines (which it resembles in its composition and production) and was the drink of the English aristocracy.
Cider’s public relations problem stems from its extremes. Mainstream commercial brands may contain as little as 35 per cent apple juice, the rest being water, sugar and artificial colouring. At the other end of the spectrum, West Country scrumpy, often thick and redolent of the farmyard, has a reputation for being able to take away the use of your legs after just one pint.
If you’re one of the many people who is simultaneously dismissive of sugary faux-ciders and terrified of what hardcore cider fans think of as “the good stuff”, don’t worry – between these two extremes lies a burgeoning craft cider boom. The word “craft” is fraught with problems but, for the curious drinker, good cider can be summed up in one word: apples. The best ciders invariably tend to be those with a high juice content (above 60 per cent juice is considered pretty good), and a focus on the varieties of apple used.
Britain has the best apple-growing terroir in the world and, just like grapes in wine, the variety used imparts its own flavour to good cider. Apples contain sugar, acid and tannin, giving sweetness, sharpness and dryness respectively. A good cider should be a balance of all three. Some apples, such as Dabinett and Kingston Black, achieve a pleasing mix on their own but most ciders are a loving blend from the 4,000-plus named apple varieties grown in the UK. We use only the best Cornish Heritage varieties. The skill of the cider maker is in getting a blend that’s a perfect balance of character and drinkability. Cider apples ferment naturally to between 6 and 10 per cent.
Barrie started out with only 6 apple trees relying mainly on the generosity of neighbours. His first press was a 15 litre Vigo and hand scratter from the local brewshop, fermenting in plastic gallon water bottles and raiding the local bottle bank. He has upgraded equipment twice since then and a number of years ago decided to ‘go professional’ setting up Fowey Valley Cider.
Try to think of cider as apple wine, its luscious fruit carefully blended, and that 6.5% ABV doesn’t seem as daunting. Drink it in the same way as wine, and not only will you get more from it, you’ll be able to tell yourself you’re drinking in moderation!