Over the past 10 or 15 years, exciting things have been happening in cider, particularly up in Herefordshire, where small-batch cider making is really starting to excel. Sadly, all too few people know how good some ciders can be; this is because in the case of most ciders, the manufacturing process has become incredibly industrialised, losing quality over quantity. But at its top end, the restaurant industry is opening up to better ciders.
There are a lot of ciders on the market that are nowhere as good as cider can be. To call something cider in Britain it only needs to be made from 35 per cent apple juice concentrate and it doesn’t even have to be made from cider apples. Everything I sell is very naturally made, usually with wild yeasts. All of the finest ciders are made with close to 100 per cent cider apple juice and take around nine months or more to make.
We work with a lot of makers who produce extremely small batches of very high-quality cider. In the UK, you can legally make up to 7,000 litres of cider completely duty-free, which is something that dates back to when farm labourers would be paid in cider. Cider was at its best in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was drunk by the aristocracy from cider flutes, and known as “England’s native wine”. For a long time, fine ciders and cider cocktails were the drink of choice in London’s gentlemen’s clubs.