The 4th of February found me in my day job as Head of Marketing for Old Mill accountants and financial advisers, manning our stand at The Source, Taste of the West, Trade show at West Point Exeter.
Although some people are suggesting the cider revival may be slowing there was no sign of it here and the number of producers seems to be still growing. Old Favourites Sheppy’s from Bradford on Tone were there with Mel their enthusiastic sales manager. Perry’s from Dowlish Wake near Ilminster were back after missing a couple of years. The exuberant Barney Butterworth of Sandford Orchards was there again. I first met him at this exhibition about six or seven years ago when he was just getting going. They then had a very basic offering but now he has gown an excellent business and is one of the brightest of the new generation of cider makers. He is just moving into an old cider factory he has refurbished at Credy near Crediton.
There were some new names as well. Winkleigh Cider has been around for over 20 years – tucked away in part of the former Inch’s cider factory in Winkleigh which was shut down shortly after being bought by Bulmer’s. Former Cider maker David Bridgman kept it going but it has not travelled far from the very remote part of Devon around Winkleigh. This was their first time at a trade show and that is because the next generation has recently taken over, David’s daughter Kylie and her husband Chris who is a great nephew of the original Sam Inch. I love it when there are these historical continuations. Obviously it is early days but there seems to be genuine enthusiasm and I look forward to seeing them again.
Another new exhibitor was Fowey Valley Cider from Cornwall. There are a growing number of cider businesses in Cornwall of a very mixed range of styles. This one only had its first batch of product ready to sell in the Autumn of 2014 as they have gone down the ‘Champagne’ cider route. Making a very high quality bottle conditioned cider in Champagne bottles. It takes well over a year to make and is very labour intensive with daily bottle turning, freezing the bottle neck and expressing the sediment. I met the enthusiastic owner, Barrie Gibson, who has turned a cider making hobby into a business. He says the cider is made with dessert apples which can sometimes lead to a bland acidic cider – not in this case. The cider had an excellent fresh taste and it is good to see the development of some of these real quality products.
The final new cider company exhibiting was Old Jollop from Ashgrove Farm Produce at Wedmore – real cider country in central Somerset. I had come across bottles of this last year. It is made by a group of friends of Toby and Leeane Lee in the village. Jo Haggan was on the stand on the Wednesday and I discovered she knows my colleague Julia Banwell quite well. I knew something about the cider from Wessex Purchase who is another of the group of friends. He comes to fire the Flintlock through the trees at the Mid Somerset Show Wassail at which I lead the ceremony.
It is a reasonable tasting traditional Somerset cider which they have bottled and gently carbonated. Apparently they have made 26,000 litres this year which will take some finding a market for!
For the sake of completeness I also spotted some other ciders on stands where cider was not the principle product. Luscombe Drinks make a very nice organic cider alongside their range of juice drinks. As do Heron Valley. Lyme Bay Winery have a few ciders as part of their range of Fruit Wines and Liqueurs. Bays Brewery had a nice cider as part of their range of beers – made for them by Perry’s.
Yes, there is a wide variety of excellent ciders out there for people to discover.