Want to hear something crazy? To call a drink ‘cider’, it has to contain just 35% apple juice. This juice doesn’t have to be from cider apple varieties and can even be from concentrate. Could you imagine drinking a wine made from 35% grape concentrate amongst other jargon? No, us neither...
In 1890, J.M Trowbridge of New York proclaimed ‘good cider is a much greater rarity than good wine’ and the same is true today. However, there are those out there who deviate from the industrial orthodoxy. A ‘new wave’ of cider-makers who value and nurture the terroir upon which their fruit grows, celebrating the history and diversity of the cider apple and encouraging a riot of complexity to unravel without manipulation using age old fermentation methods. True expression of terroir and pure articulation of fruit, hand crafted by real artisans. And the best bit... it’s OUR drink, on our doorstep, ready for you to discover.
It’s in the name… Polly and Matt Hilton literally find and foster lost Devon Orchards, home to traditional, rare and rediscovered apple varieties. They help farmers to breathe life back into the crown jewels of our Devonshire countryside after losing 90% of our orchards since WWII. But it’s not just about conservation… Polly & Matt make some of the most refined ciders around using three traditional methods; Keeving, Pat Nat & Methode Traditionelle. Their recent (very) limited release ‘Seven’ is a revelation. Made following the same process as champagne, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating sediment which settles in the neck. The bottle is then disgorged and the naturally sparkling cider is complete. If you have the self-restraint, this cider will age beautifully for years. However, if you’re anything like us, your inquisitiveness will overcome and you will seek out any excuse to pop the cork.
Our good friend Barny Butterfield has become one of the most revered names in cidermaking. Using traditional cider apples from carefully selected orchards surrounding his Ciderworks in the Creedy Valley he crafts a range of artisan ciders. Whilst his session ciders, Devon Red & Devon Mist, are enjoyed by many across the West country, he also makes exquisite fine cider from single varieties using unique fermentations. His Tremlett’s Bitter celebrates the iconic Devonshire apple variety. It boasts some lip-smacking astringency, blockbusting tannins and a riot of fruit. Soon, Barny will be our resident cidermaker here at Darts Farm, making small batch unique ciders that celebrate East Devon varieties right in the heart of our new Cider Innovation House & Restaurant.
Nicknamed the Godfather of the Fine Cider Movement, Tom Oliver applies a lifetime of experience with centuries of cidermaking tradition to craft some of the world’s greatest ciders and perrys on his farm in Herefordshire. After pioneering wild yeast fermentation, Tom has experimented with numerous barrel aging methods and collaborated with some of the world’s most iconic craft brewers and cidermakers. Whilst not a cider, we really feel his Keeved Perry needs shouting about… Keeving is an artisan method of creating a naturally sweetened cider or perry. During fermentation, yeasts will convert any available sugar into a dry alcohol. The process of keeving involves a uniquely long, slow fermentation process, where the formation of pectin gel traps and removes nitrogen. Starved of essential nutrients, the wild yeast fermentation stops early, leaving naturally residual sugars and a wonderfully terroir-expressive sweetness. Keeving is a notoriously difficult process and perry pears are notoriously difficult to ferment, however Tom has nailed it, and we’re all the luckier. Napoleon Bonaparte once described Perry as ‘English Champagne’, but that probably doesn’t do it justice.
Because we all need reasons to be cheerful right now, and this cider certainly gives us one! Wilding Cider is made by Beccy & Sam Leach, a couple formerly famed for their iconic Bristol restaurant, Birch. From their farm in Chew Magna, Somerset, they make cider in the most natural way possible, fermenting in small batches and using traditional apple varieties local to the region. Experimenting with different aging methods, such as Portuguese red wine barrels and bottle conditioning, their cider is truly unique and truly special. Made with fruit pressed on the last day of their season in December 2018, Reasons to be Cheerful is a rich celebration of fruit, with gorgeous complexity and solid tannins.
Alex Hill uses traditional cider apple varieties from his own orchards and surrounding orchards in the Blackdown Hills. Once hand-picked, the apples are milled, pressed and fermented using wild yeasts and wine culture yeasts. Having pressed in October and November, the first fermentation lasts until early spring. The dry cider is then bottled for the second ‘champagne style’ fermentation. After a year in the bottle, the ciders are disgorged and ready for drinking! We’re currently drinking 2014, however Alex dropped in a sneaky preview of 2017 and boy it’s good.
Come and join us and pick our Sunflowers for Charity!
The Exeter Chief Boys relax with a BBQ before the season begins!