FINE CIDERS FROM LOST ORCHARDS, FOUND IN DEVON
When I discovered that 90% of Devon's Traditional Orchards have been lost since WWII and 50% of those that remain are in poor condition due to a lack of incentive to manage them or replace fallen trees(Natural England, 2011) I embarked on a mission to find & foster those that remain. What I found close to my home in the Exe Valley were small, often ancient orchards in which many trees had fallen & those still standing were dying back, in desperate need of pruning, suffocated by encroaching scrub and often strangled by wire once protecting the trees when young but later forgotten.
The vast majority of the apples in these orchards were left to rot on the ground year after year. Yet they contain some of the best cider apple varieties in the world as well as unusual local dessert and cooking varieties. Some of these varieties are rare or even on the verge of extinction. Some we have identified, others we can't.
Through courses run by the Devon charities OrchadsLive and Orchard Link I became trained in all aspects of orchard management, including pruning, grafting & planting. With the help of family and friends, especially my husband Mat and parents, trained gardeners Lyn & Barney, we work with local orchard owners to help preserve their beautiful old orchards; graft rare, local varieties from trees already in the orchards and plant them to replace dead trees, we prune to encourage growth and reduce 'windage' to prevent more trees being blown over. Through staggered, late mowing of only specific sites we prevent the orchards from being overrun with scrub, nettles and brambles, while leaving large areas to support a greater diversity of small mammals, birds, butterflies and other insects.
The Henry Plumb Foundation awarded me with a grant to purchase my first little apple press and mill and EU Leader funding has helped the business to grow.
Through The Prince's Trust I gained the support of my invaluable business mentor Jeff Lancaster.
MW Susan McCraith taught me on a Wine Industry module as an undergrad and continues to support me.
Simon Tyrrell, wine maker and cider maker, has taught both me and Mat how to apply winemaking skills to cidermaking.
The vast array of apple varieties planted many years ago in these orchards each lend diverse and unique flavours, aromas, tannins and levels of acidity to our ciders, which we carefully blend to create perfectly balanced ciders of the highest quality possible, that are a pure expression of the apple varieties and terroir. We add minimal or no sulphites to our ciders and apply no chemicals in the orchards.
To get the most from the diverse varieties of fruit throughout harvest season we use two different methods of producing sparkling fine ciders: the Methode Traditionelle (champagne method) and the keeving method to produce a petillant naturel cider ( Pet-Nat). Learn more on the 'Ciders' and 'Methods' pages.