Barrie's Tales from the Orchard
Cider makers across the South West have responded to the continued absence of gatherings by launching a cyber celebration to mark South West Cider Week.
Such is the ingenuity and determination of producers around the region that a packed programme of events actually exceeds one week – stretching from Friday 12 June to Sunday 21 June. During that time, cider drinkers and serious aficionados alike can enjoy online tastings, virtual tours, a cyber meet and greet with producers and even a drive through cider shop followed by an orchard walk.
The events are being organised by cider makers and retailers themselves, and co-ordinated through the website, www.swciderweek.org.uk and on social media using the hashtag swciderweek.
To kick off our South West Cider Week, I'm taking a trip down memory lane. In early 2002, we had an abundance of apples with nowhere to store them. There's only so many apple pies you can make!
I saw Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall on the telly with one of the mad Somerset cider makers and I thought, so you press the apples, get juice, and leave it. The longer the better! This seemingly solved our apple storage problems. Of course, after a few attempts, I found out it wasn't quite that simple, but it was great fun learning.
The first year we managed 100 litres of what is now our Fowey Valley Sparkling Cider. It tasted brilliant, if I do say so myself. The Méthode Traditionelle – a labour-intensive but sworn-by method made iconic by the producers of Champagne in France – made it completely unique to the Fowey area, producing a clear, brut-like sparkling cider that was swaying even the most scrumpy-wary of drinkers.
Our two mothers, mine and Gerry's, who are pictured below were doing all the hard work, picking, cutting and pressing. So we called that vintage the ‘Cider di due Madre’.
I was hooked. From then on, all the neighbours brought their apples round. Every time I came home from work there were sacks of apple on the step, every time I went down the pub the landlord said “somebody else has left you some apples”. I haven’t looked back since. We started selling it officially in 2015, after launching Fowey Valley at Fowey's Christmas market.
Now, I not only have an abundance of apples, I have an abundance of cider and all the machinery that goes along with it.