Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Cider of the Week

Gregg's Pit Chisel Jersey, Dabinett & White Close Pippin

When most beer bloggers/writers/ communicators write about cider they write about Tom Oliver. Why is that you may ask? Well, he is one of the best cider (and perry) makers in the country for a start. He's also a UK pioneer, perhaps the only UK pioneer, of a craft beer/craft cider crossover.

However great cider and perry doesn't start and finish with Oliver's - there are numerous equally good makers out there and, in line with this blog's new policy of branching out from Dutch beer I bring you Gregg's Pit.

James Marsden and Helen Woodman have been making cider and perry at Gregg's Pit farm on the outskirts of Much Marcle (the home of Westons) in Herefordshire since 1994. They have subsequently gained an enormous reputation for their products (and they are pictured here on the right of the photo receiving one of their many awards), I've been lucky enough to have visited several times.

They specialise in single varietals (that's to say a cider or perry made from the juice of just one variety of cider apple or perry pear) but also make some excellent named blends. They are all exceptionally elegant drinks, helped perhaps by the Gregg's Pit practice of milling the fruit and then letting the pulp stand overnight before pressing to extract the juice. This not only softens the pulp and increases juice extraction but also removes some of the tannin, this aiding a fuller and more rounded mouth feel in the end product.

This is one of the named blends (says he stating the bleedin' obvious) and uses the juice of:

Chisel Jersey - a "bittersweet" cider apple originating in Somerset. Its juice is high in tannin and sugar but low in acidity.

Dabinett - this very popular cider apple also originated in Somerset and is another "bittersweet". Quite a few cider makers use this to make a single varietal cider.

White Close Pippin - this was a new one on me. It's a pretty old and fairly rare variety (although stock is commercially available should you feel the urge to plant a tree) and it's another "bittersweet" too.

This cider is also slightly different from the crowd as it's keeved. Keeving is an old method of making naturally sweeter, sparkling and lower gravity ciders - it was widely used in the West Country here in the UK and also in northern France. It pretty much died out here (but is clearly making a bit of a comeback) but is still commonplace in the production of Franch cider and perry. The process involves the formation of a pectin gel that floats to the top of the fermenting tank and forms a sort of crust. There are lots of technical details here:


So, what's it like then? First the glass - if I try traditional cider at home I usually opt for a Belgian lambic glass - after all ciders and perries are the UK's home-grown spontaneously fermented drinks. It's the colour of  a late autumn field of ripe barley and has a full fruity nose with just a touch of "funk". It's full bodied with plenty of apple fruit and almost a  buttery richness to the texture. The medium-sweet finish brings a touch of dryness with it - wonderfully moreish.

Do look out for Gregg's Pit cider and perry - most of the outlets are in Herefordshire but there are some in London - including Claridges!

Happy New Year everyone - back next week.

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