Cider has always been a great partner on the BBQ scene, and any drink containing apples or pears gives a perfect, refreshing accompaniment to pork in all the meat’s live fire diversity. For about £7.50 you can buy a whole pig’s head and this not only crisps up superbly to give you a whole lot of crackling, but the amount of meat on the head translates to about a kilo of net meat, including two delicious cheeks.
Just as wine can get more refined and more expensive, the same is true of cider and perry. Words like single vineyard, vintage and actual apple names now turn up on the bottle labels; a far cry from the old days when it was flagons or plastic buckets with hand-written stickers on them.
The word ‘traditional’ keeps popping up, but the term obviously varies as to where exactly the cider is from, be it Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire or Monmouthshire.
Sandford Orchards in Crediton, Devon produces a wide range of ciders labelled into different styles, cost and quality levels, much as in the style of a French wine vineyard. This gives you the diversity to give a full blow out cider experience to your friends. The drinks also have a clear dry-sweetness level marked on the bottle or can.
The Sandford Orchards range is comprehensive, with its top cider, Tremlett’s Bitter, priced at £8.50 for a 660ml bottle with 7.8% alcohol. It is a golden straw colour with a bruised apple nose then a gentle champagne-like fizz with layers of fresh zesty flavours and hints of retsina (pine), cedar oak and a lovely tannin finishing with a touch of apple cognac.
One of its session ciders, Devon Red, starts at £1.20 for a 440ml can at 4.5% and is a refreshing medium-bodied-style cider with both a crisp apple taste and a thirst-quenching depth.
If you are after a pick-me-up while getting the fire going in these more moderate temperatures, try a refreshing but warming cocktail, stolen from Poland, called Szarlotka. Fill a tumbler with ice cubes, pour over a hefty shot of Bison Grass vodka (you can use other vodkas), top with good pure apple juice such as James White, add a sprinkle of all spice and, as if by magic, it will taste like apple pie.
Let’s head back to cider and perry and specifically Herefordshire’s Gregg’s Pitt produced by James Marsden and Helen Woodman in Much Marcle. James Marsden made his first perry in 1994, re-establishing a tradition of perry making at Gregg’s Pitt from the 1920s.
Here we go full wallop with specific names on the cider, starting with Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey & White Close Pippin. This 6.0% champagne-cork-closured cider at £5.00 per 375ml has a luxurious refined style, off dry and a fruit forward taste with delicate fizz.
Over to its sparkling Herefordshire Perry; the pears are named Barnet, Brandy & Winnals Longdon – again priced at £5 per 375ml and 5.0%. Clear refreshing purity, the delicate pear flavours carry the semi-dry taste to a different level akin to the finest prosecco you have ever tasted – a stunning perry that will impress all.
Finally a perry that is slightly different – Monmouthshire Still Perry. The first official release will not be until March and this will be a still perry, more like a Chenin blanc. It is a spectacular project with some funky star names to the pears that they are using – Monmouthshire Burgundy being one and the other Llanarth Green. These pears are allowed to naturally drop from the 300-year-old trees onto thick lush grass where they are then allowed to start fermenting on the ground before being collected and pressed in a unique traditional method. Remember the name JKL Perry.
Roger Jones held a Michelin Star for 12 years prior to retiring from running his own restaurant – The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire – at the start of 2020, to concentrate on his journalism and wine judging.
Jones has worked for Decanter for over 12 years and is one of its key judges for Australia at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. He is a panel chair for the International Wine & Spirit Competition, ambassador for the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships and one of the founder wine writers for The-Buyer.net.
Jones also runs his own consultancy, advising numerous companies and bodies on marketing and food and drink matching.
‘The wine chef bar none, Roger Jones has turned his passion for wine into a headline act, bringing great cooking and a deep knowledge of wines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere to the table doing much for the profile of New World wine and food compatibility’ – Harpers’ Hot 100.
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