Tradition counts

27 March, 2009

Middle Farm in Firle, East Sussex , houses

the National Collection of Cider and Perry .

Co-director Rod Marsh tells OLN ab

out it

We have been selling cider and perry at Middle Farm since 1981, when John Pile, my wife Helen's father, brought two Somerset and two Devon ciders back from a cheese -gathering trip to the West Country, for his already well-established

farm shop

.

Nowadays we do a 'cider run', or two, per week to pick up ciders and perries at source.

This gives us invaluable insight into the way each cider is made, and affords us the opportunity of meeting the maverick breed of English - and Welsh - men and women who make it .

Perry, as opposed to

pear cider, is certainly enjoying a powerful renaissance at the moment. I t could well be in short supply, however, because late frosts hit the bud set of perry pear trees for the second year running. Ideally the term

"pear cider " should die a natural death. It has allowed unscrupulous makers to pass off alcopops as drinks with some historical credibility, and by implication some quality.

The use of the term has significantly muddied the definition of what is and is not perry. We are currently in negotiation with the Food Standards Agency and Trading Standards to outlaw the term .

Cider awareness in the marketplace has never been greater. It is becoming the drink of choice for a far wider group of people than we have ever seen before. It is appealing to young and old alike,

despite

the fact that it contains apples and nothing else, unlike it s industrial counterpart, which at best should be marketed as

"ciderkin ", or cider with water.

"Best seller " status is difficult to confer, given that the

collection changes on a weekly basis, with new ciders and perries arriving all season. Generally speaking, medium or sweet

"soft " ciders and perries are popular at the moment. By

"soft " I mean lacking in both acidity and tannin. Our experience is

that once

people get into cider

they tend to want something more challenging and

gravitate towards drier (perhaps more representative) examples of the cider -maker's art.

The on -trade ha s finally woken up to the potential of real cider in the way that

it discovered real ale some years ago. More and more beer and music festivals are pushing cider, for example Camra's Reading beer and cider festival, which last year bought 21 5-gallon tubs of cider from us,

is taking 91 this time.

The only limit to the expansion of this market is the supply of appropriate varieties of cider apples. We simply haven't

got the acreage under trees needed to sustain growth at the current rate.




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