About the 2019 Vintage
The start of September 2019 brought a succession of westerly fronts with heavy rain before quieter, warmer weather arrived and stayed with us until the very wet end of the month. October was also dominated by wet and unsettled conditions, as the jet stream was further south than normal, and the last week was very wet before turning cold, dry and sunny in early November. It was a long, wet, and muddy harvest, but a cold snap in mid-November once again gave us perfect low temperatures (i.e. consistently below 12 degrees) for ‘keeving’ our ‘Normandy method’ sparkling cider.
We started pressing Thorn perry pears on 18 September, Aylton Red, Blakeney Red and Gregg's Pit (our ‘home’ perry pear variety) were all ‘light croppers’ yielding just 600 litres, and our mid-season blend of Barnet, Brandy and Winnals Longdon filled a 500 litre vat. Late harvest perry pears were so abundant that we had to leave some on the orchard floor and quality of the Butt and Oldfield were outstanding, so we feel confident that the 600 litres we pressed will make a fine bottle conditioned sparkling perry.
2019 was a ‘hit’ year for traditional standard cider apples locally and we sourced enough Browns Apple, Kingston Black and Sweet Coppin to press 900 litres of our favourite draught cider blend, a 500-litre vat of Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey and White Close Pippin and 600 litres of our late harvest Dabinett and Yarlington Mill ‘Normandy method’ sparkling cider.
Our total production was 4900 litres (38% more than in 2018) of which there are 2500 litres of perry and 2300 litres of cider.
The warm wet weather throughout much of winter 2019/20 brought forward fermentation and, just as we entered Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ and the perry pear blossom burst, we began bottling perry on 23 March.
The perry pear blossom gave us a fabulous show throughout the fine Spring weather we enjoyed during April and, if it sets and we don’t have a big mid-Summer ‘drop’, 2020 is set to see an abundance of vintage fruit. Some of the cider apples (e.g. Browns Apple, Dabinett and Yarlington Mill) also look as if they will have bumper crops.
Draught cider & perry
We sell most of our draught products through our wholesalers to CAMRA beer and cider festivals across England, direct to our customers at Gregg’s Pit and at food and drink festivals in the Marches.
Our wholesale prices for draught cider and perry are:
10 or 20 litre ‘bag-in-box’ draught cider @ £2.75/litre (inclusive of packaging)
10 or 20 litre ‘bag-in-box’ draught perry @ £3.00/litre (inclusive of packaging)
The advantage of the ‘bag-in-box’ is that it’s a double skin food grade plastic bag inside a robust biodegradable cardboard box with no risk of spoilage.
Normandy method ‘keeved’ and bottled conditioned sparkling cider & perry
The Normandy method of producing a ‘keeved’ naturally sparkling cider was a new venture for us in 2005 and these products are now much in demand. We mill the fruit and then set it aside to ‘macerate’ for up to 24 hours before pressing. We add a special enzyme to the tank before filling with raw juice and then a small quantity of calcium chloride is added about 36 hours later. We then pump it top and bottom to create a continuous closed circulation for 40 minutes. The result is a brown pectin-calcium gel (known as ‘Le chapeau brun’ or ‘brown hat’), which forms on the surface of the freshly pressed juice and absorbs the nitrogen and vitamins that would otherwise provide nutrient for the wild yeast.
After 10-15 days, when ‘Le chapeau brun’ is well formed (it can be up to 10 cm thick and is ready when brown and ‘crusty’), a clear, nutrient poor and slow fermenting juice can be racked off from underneath it. This will be suitable for final racking, filtration and bottling at a specific gravity of 1015 after 6-9 months to produce a bottle conditioned medium to medium-dry cider/perry with a slight yeast deposit.
We have bottled and laid down in stillage 450 x 75cl and 320 x 375ml bottles of our Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey & White Close Pippin 2018 Normandy method naturally sparkling cider, as well as 450 x 75cl and 370 x 375ml bottles of Barnet, Brandy & Winnals Longdon 2018 bottle conditioned sparking perry.
We will bottle and release 600 litres of our Dabinett & Yarlington Mill 2019 ‘Normandy method’ naturally sparkling cider, and 300-600 litres of Blakeney, Butt & Oldfield bottle conditioned sparkling perry in summer/autumn 2020. They will be available in a full weight champagne style bottle with mushroom cork and wire closure in 75cl and 150cl ‘magnum’ bottle formats.
Draught cider & perry
We made our first ‘Champagne Method’ bottle fermented perry in 2001.
In October 2018 we laid down 490 x 75cl bottles of our favourite Thorn – single variety 2017 perry for a second in-bottle fermentation. This product had a first fermentation in barrel during autumn/winter 2017/18 and a second in bottle fermentation during 2018/19 prior to remuage and disgorging at Three Choirs Vineyards Ltd in May 2020.
The 75cl bottle format is the same as for the bottle conditioned sparkling perry with the addition of a gold foil. We will release this product for sale in June/July 2020 (wholesale price to be confirmed).
For the first time in 25 years of producing craft cider and perry, there will be a three-year consecutive ‘vertical’ tasting run of our Thorn – single variety ‘Champagne method’ bottle fermented perry. In addition to the 490 x 75cl bottles of the 2017 vintage, there are 280 x 75cl bottles of the 2018 vintage on lees in stillage and we plan to bottle a 300 litre vat of the 2019 vintage later this year.
In April 2017 we took a 300 vat of our 2015 draught perry to Charles Martell & Son Ltd at Dymock for distilling into Pear Spirit, which sold out very fast! We doubled the volume with 600 litres of our 2017 and 2018 vintages, having learned that draught perry produces a better quality, smoother and more characteristically fruity spirit when distilled young soon after it has finished fermentation in late summer.
Our 2018 vintage Pear Spirit is available in 50cl bottles with cork and foil closure @ £30.00/50cl (wholesale).
We will distil 600 litres of 2019 draught perry later in 2020 and confirm pricing of our 2019 Pear Spirit when it’s available for release to market.