Friday, 20 July 2012

Ashridge heaven - how to steer the cider.

With an absence of a full two months since my last post, I must apologise. I have been inundated with work, family duties and holiday. That may make me sound rested and well off but somehow it never quite works out that way...

Anyhow, following the success of Ashridge Cider whose bottle fermented 2010 vintage won Supreme Champion Cider at this years Royal Bath and West Show, I stumbled across several bottles of their 2010 Organic Vintage (in a Spar of all places!) whilst camping in Devon recently and was blown away with just how tasty it is. I have been told that "Cider from Devon was like the people from Devon... rather simple" (which of course I found amusing being both childish and from neighbouring Somerset.) The truth of course is that Cider has a long and well documented history in Devon that you just can't ignore. West of Somerset, both Devon and Cornwall are littered with ports from which many of our most famous names (including Drake & Raleigh) sailed from. With both the finance to produce it and the need to travel with it, large quantities of cider were made and doubtless consumed on these wealthy maritime family estates during 17th century. On opening my first bottle after a hard days camping in the south Devon drizzle with a three year old, I discovered it to be everything but simple -a deliciously complex cider and with lot of balls, balanced and refreshing. Its a drink you could have the most long and stimulating conversation with. Indeed, if it could talk, it would inspire me to be a better person (a characteristic that appeals to me in any fermented beverage.) I would highly recommend hunting some down, buying a case and setting sail. Apparently it contains 25-30 varieties of traditional cider apples and once crushed, the apples are left for 24hours to macerate before being pressed. This increases the flavour, colour, clarity and I promise you, its certainly worth the extra effort.

Its a great example of how to make a great artisan cider. Cidermaker and proprietor Jason has been making cider there since 1998 but it tastes like he's been doing it forever. He was already a serious enthusiast when he bought Barkington Farm and met a chap called Cyril Trenchard who was, by the sounds of it, the sort the likes of which I don't think they make many of these days. Cyril used to press the apples for the previous owner of the farm, he owned and maintained the mill and press and taught Jason a lot about making cider the traditional way. Old timers have a way of inspiring people and I look forward to meeting them most. Hailing from a background in bio-chemistry, Jason professes to "have always attempted to combine the sound traditional methods of cider making with a full understanding of the chemistry involved in the process. This enables me to steer the cider rather than follow it...Quite right too, all us artisan types benefit from a bit of science to counteract the soul. 

Anyway, as I was on holiday I didn't take any photos of the bottles. Jason has said he'll send me some and as soon as he does, I'll post photos too so you can ogle at them jealously!