Autumn’s arrival once again heralds the start of the cider making cycle and hopefully a decent crop of apples for picking and pressing to make the cider for 2015. We are just about to start again and will be out in the orchards around Berkshire collecting up as much unwanted fruit as we can get! This year we had a fair spring and a long hot summer so there should be good range of fruit for cider makers across the country to meet next year’s demand. Demand for cider this summer has been high with the unusually warm summer, but this has caused a few problems keeping the cider in good condition at such temperatures.
The greatest obstacle for real cider to overcome in Britain is the amount of fruit based alcoholic drinks purporting to be cider. This is a crucial issue that has been debated by cider makers and CAMRA for many years and needs to be resolved if one of our most traditional drinks is be protected from an influx of mass produced inferior products. Often these products are sold to the unsuspecting public who are bombarded with misleading advertising that carefully avoids the fact that many of these drinks contain no more than 35% juice!
The following article on this issue was written by CAMRA member and cider maker Ray Blockley. At the recent Cider Trends Summit held in Bristol on June 17th, plans were presented for an application for a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) for ‘Heritage English Cider’ and ‘Heritage English Perry’.
The Cider Trends Summit is probably the most important meeting of ‘Big’ Cider in the UK and so attracts cider makers large and small – and massive – from all over the UK, as well as those who want to learn about the UK Cider Industry.
Jez Howat of 146 Cider based in Hampshire, has been the driving force behind the idea of protecting true real cider and perry with a PGI. Jez has worked with and led a small number of passionate cider makers, including CAMRA Pomona Award winners, to construct and hone a
plausible PGI application. The team who worked with Jez to get it to the position of being ready for public presentation are first and foremost, Dr Andrew Lea, Tom Oliver and Nick Bradstock (along with his replacement at NACM, Richard Heathcote [NB: NACM is the National Association of Cider Makers]). Others who gave varying degrees of advice and comment
include cidermakers Mark Shirley of Rockingham Forest Cider, Ray Blockley of Torkard Cider, Simon Day of Once Upon A Tree, and Matt Veasey of Nook’s Yard Cider.
It was pleasing that over 40 producers of all sizes as well as the major cider maker representative bodies have shown support for this PGI, and it was certainly well received by those present.
The basic points of the PGI application are:
• The PGI will only cover England
• Juice Content must be a minimum of 85%, from fresh pressed juice only (no concentrate)
• English grown Apples and Pears only
• Raising the sugar content is allowed
• Dilution with water is allowed (subject to the juice content rule)
• Raising SG AND dilution is NOT permitted together for the same finished product
• It must be of quality – specifically it must not be acetic (vinegary) or poorly kept
• Any type of apple is permitted (allowing for all styles to be covered)
• Pasteurisation is permitted
• Sweetening (including artificial sweetening) permitted (subject to guidelines on sweetness)
• Filtration is permitted
• Apple and Pear only – no other fruits/vegetables/flavoured ingredients permitted
Obviously these are only the highlights and there is much more detail in the document, but it suffices as a lay description. As I see this PGI, the key point is that it gives consumer choice and consumer information. If a cider carries the PGI mark, you can be sure it has met these criteria; remember that alcoholic drinks do not have to carry any labelling of ingredients. However, at the same time this is an opportunity for the whole English cider industry – no one is excluded as long as they produce a quality product to the above criteria. CAMRA won’t agree with all of the points – but of course the producer can select not to filter and not to pasteurise. Ultimately the PGI gets its approval from the EU, although first it needs UK approval from DEFRA. The process is slow but this is a major step forward for quality. It’s great to see passionate, truly craft, real cider makers leading the way. Ray Blockley Nottingham CAMRA
Salt Hill Cider has had a fine year with good demand from thirsty cider fans and we will be working all through the autumn and into the winter to turn as much of the local unwanted apples we collect into cider as we can ready for next spring.
Maybe within the next few years we may adopt legislation that will mean all ciders will be made entirely from fresh pressed British apples and drinkers will get the cider they deserve!