Making real cider and perry at Gregg's Pit is a year-round task. Work begins in winter when pruning is done on frost-free days to promote new growth, shape and light in the trees.
In spring, the first blossom comes to the perry pear trees in April, and the apples continue to flower throughout May and early June. When the fruit has set, James and Helen walk through the orchards to check which varieties are likely to produce a good crop at harvestime.
In mid-summer the crop is assessed again and a detailed plan for the vintage is prepared so they know what to make and when.
Autumn brings the fruit harvest, when ripe apples and pears are picked up by hand from the ground, usually from late September until the middle of November. The fruit is chopped in a mill to produce a pulp, which is left to stand overnight. This process softens the pulp, removes some of the tannin, and increases the overall juice extraction.
The following day, the pulp is taken to the stone press in the heart of the orchard, and tipped onto a press cloth, called a hair. The cloth is folded up to make a square parcel, which is stacked with around fifteen others, to form a 'cheese'. A heavy board is put on the cheese and two people turn the screws at either side of the press slowly winding down the top beam, which applies pressure to the pulp. The pressed juice then pours out and is pumped into stainless steel tanks where the wild yeast begins its work, fermenting the juice into alcohol.
Several times during the winter, the fermenting juice is racked into clean tanks. When fermentation slows in May or June, the finished product is ready for bottling or sale on draught.
In most years, James and Helen make a range of single variety and named varietal blends of cider and perry, one or more of which will include the Gregg's Pit perry pear – our own ‘home’ grown variety.