[Photo: Eleanor Thatcher, fifth generation cider maker, at the orchard in Christon]
The apples come from one of the West Country’s oldest, and most influential, orchards. With its ongoing research into apple varieties, Thatchers Cider is celebrating the work of the former National Fruit and Cider Institute with its new limited edition cider.
Thatchers has blended apples from one of Somerset’s oldest and most influential orchards for its new, limited edition Christon Single Orchard Cider.
The standard orchard in Christon, nestled at the foot of the Mendip Hills, was originally planted back in 1928, and is home to traditional apple varieties including Court Royal, Frederick and Stembridge Cluster.
The Christon orchard plays a very special part of cidermaking history. It was planted by cider pioneers at the National Fruit and Cider Institute at the Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol in the early days of cider research. It was these cider pioneers who really were the founding fathers of the modern cider industry, with their ground-breaking research into apple varieties and regional growing conditions. Their work on cider making techniques, including yeast selection, is still valued by cider makers today.
Fourth generation cider maker Thatchers has harvested the orchard – that is home to 25 different varieties of apple – four times throughout the season, ensuring each variety has been captured at its perfect ripeness. The apples were taken straight from the orchard to the mill, and pressed straight away, retaining all the individual characteristics of the fruit, and the orchard.
The fresh juice was cold fermented in Thatchers’ cider barn, carefully preserving the flavour and character of the fruit. Each small batch of juice has then been blended together before being matured in oak to create the robust and full flavoured cider.
The mix of apples blended into the new, unique Christon Single Orchard cider brings a depth and complexity to this cider. Just 10,000 bottles are being produced of the 8.4% abv, medium dry, full-bodied cider.
Richard Johnson, chief cidermaker at Thatchers, says,
“I love this traditional orchard at Christon which oozes character and tradition. There’s a real mix of heritage apples here, that we’ve blended into this really bold, full bodied cider, perfect for the onset of colder days and darker evenings when a smooth, warming cider is so welcome.”
By using apples from one single orchard, the cider makers at Thatchers recognise how the soil and climatic conditions have a huge influence on the fruit’s flavour and characteristics, just as the researchers at Long Ashton did back in the early 1900s. The Christon orchard is nestled on south facing slopes at the foot of Somerset’s Mendip Hills, with a red loam topsoil over a clay subsoil. The varieties harvested from Christon orchard also include Brown Snout, Yarlington Mill, Yellow Styre, and White Close Pippin.
Liz Copas, one of the UK’s leading pomologists and formerly of the Long Ashton Research Station has helped identify all the apples – and perry pears – in the Christon orchard.
She says, “This has to be one of the most influential orchards in modern British cider making. It’s a real privilege to have the chance to walk through these trees some of which are coming up to 100 years old. All cidermakers today owe much to the work that was carried out at Long Ashton Research Station, and Thatchers have captured that essence in a bottle with this new cider.”
With its forty acres of trial orchards, including its living library Exhibition Orchard, Thatchers is carrying on the Long Ashton tradition of research into apple varieties, growing conditions and their suitability for cider making. Its “100 Tree Trial” has seen 10,000 new trees of different apple varieties planted in Thatchers own hedgerow style, with all these varieties having either performed well in the Exhibition Orchard, or having a reputation for producing excellent cider.
Richard concludes, “Trialling different apple varieties and researching how they perform in varying cider styles is such an important part of our ability to innovate and create ciders for today’s shopper. At the same time, we are able to look back at the legacy of the Long Ashton Research Station and carry that on into our work today.”
The apples are coming in, the presses are at work, and it’s almost that time when the Big Apple has welcomed visitors to the Herefordshire parishes of the Marcle Ridge for the past thirty years. But, sadly, not in 2020. The event, which was scheduled for 10th and 11th October, has been cancelled. The community organisation behind the Big Apple had come up with a programme and a delivery plan designed to keep the event within COVID-19 secure guidelines, but the latest changes proved a step too far.
“We’ve been outrun by the virus”, said spokesman Jackie Denman.
“We’d like to thank the Public Health team at Herefordshire Council for their advice and support – they really tried to help us make it happen. In the end, the decision to cancel was our own. The timing just wasn’t right.”
Messages of support followed the announcement late last week.
“Everyone agreed that we had made the right decision, but they also took the trouble to tell us that we would be much missed.”
This annual opportunity to enjoy the orchards in this special corner of Herefordshire, to see, hear and smell cider being made and to taste many different varieties of apples, local ciders, perries and apple juices has become an established part of the calendar for many people. Apple growers and cider makers depend heavily on events for sales of their produce, and almost all had already been cancelled.
“We tried so hard to keep the Big Apple going, especially because we were almost the only apple event in this part of the country that was still in this year’s calendar. We’ve put a special area on our website at https://www.bigapple.org.uk/harvestime2020/, with information about the local producers that would have been there, and some ways to get hold of their produce.”
Hawkes will be bringing their new concept of cider festival into Germany with a one-day event. German cidermakers Ostmost and Pica Pica, alongside Austrian Cidermakers Blakstoc will be attending. All cidermakers will be pouring to a relatively green crowd in terms of cider drinking, so the festival will be shining a light on new tastes and experiences.
Hosted at BrewDog’s Berlin brewery, the space is a 2500 square meter old power station
Entry is free and guided tastings from each of the Cidermakers will be on offer for a small fee.
A new TV campaign from Thatchers, the family cider makers, will appear on screens from Monday 17th August 2020. Called “Family”, it reinforces the values that are the driving force behind everything that Thatchers does.
True to life, authentic, warm and aspirational, the new campaign from the Somerset cider maker will be broadcast nationally, on TV and Video on Demand.
The ad has been directed by award-winning British director Steve Reeves with production company Another Film Company. The creative agency is McCann Bristol, and media agency Bray Leino.
Bill Bailey has provided the voice over, and as in previous campaigns Martin Thatcher has a cameo role, this time joined by family members Anne and Eleanor. Cider makers Richard Johnson and Sophie Jennings also make appearances.
Martin Thatcher, four generation cidermaker says, “This is an ad that’s warm with a smile in its heart. We hope everyone will be able to relate to it. The sense of family runs very strongly throughout all we do at Thatchers, from our heritage and traditions, through to our quality and expertise in cider making. It’s something we’re all very proud of, and we know it’s something that will always stay true. There’s never been a better time to reinforce the message of family and caring for each other.”
A forty and thirty second ad will showcase the Thatchers cider portfolio of Thatchers Gold, Haze and Rosé. A social campaign will also run.
Thatchers has been the cider category’s top off trade performer during lockdown with sales +108.7% in the last 12 weeks. *Source: IRI, vol sales 12 w/e 18th July 2020.
It’s exciting times at Dunkertons Organic cider as they celebrate new international award wins and a complete packaging refresh, just in time for what is hopefully a glorious British Summer.
Dunkertons began in 1980 with the pioneering spirit and vision of their founders, Ivor & Susie Dunkerton. Their vision was to craft organic ciders in harmony with the environment to support the natural eco-system and were the first UK cidery to be certified organic as a grower & producer with the Soil Association. They only use whole pressed organic apples or pears and mature their ciders in single VATs similar to winemaking, for over 12 months, resulting in all their ciders or perry containing over 90% juice. Their ciders and perry are world renowned for their famous ‘deep flavour’.
Lee Holdstock, Trade Relations Manager for the Soil Association commented, “It’s been a pleasure certifying Dunkertons for over 20 years, and it’s great to see them facing the future with the same pioneering spirit that has shaped everything they do. By growing organically for so long, without chemical pesticides or herbicides, the orchards that provide Dunkertons’ apples will have been contributing to better soil health, cleaner air and higher levels of insect life. In fact, organic farms have 50% more wildlife than non-organic. Shoppers are increasingly interested in where their drinks come from, both in terms of the provenance of the cider and terroir. On both these counts, organic production delivers high quality ciders for drinkers to enjoy, just as Dunkerton’s has been doing for over two decades.”
The new packaging includes embossed labels, tactile inks, gold foils and the addition of neck labels plus the addition of new cyclops tasting notes and food pairing on the back labels. Dunkertons are confident the new presentation of their premium organic ciders and perry will genuinely appeal to today’s discerning cider drinkers.
Dunkertons are also launching a new deep flavoured 5% ABV Craft cider in a 500ml bottle and a 330ml can which is the first in the can format for the cider company. The organic Craft cider was developed over a few years to ensure the ‘deep flavour’ was captured and they are confident that the new format and lower ABV will make Dunkertons even more appealing to a wider range of discerning cider drinkers.
Continuing their pioneering spirit Dunkertons are also going to be the first cider company to include a scale for sweetness, acidity and tannins on their packaging, all of which help deliver the flavour of the cider. Most ciders just distinguish between sweet and dry but this doesn’t give the drinker a full understanding of the complex flavours within each cider. Dunkertons have also included a food pairing for each cider to drive awareness of cider as a great accompaniment with food.
The packaging launch follows on from a triumphant start to the year for Dunkertons with Black Fox winning Gold for Best in Class and second place in the Traditional Dry Cider category, with Organic Dry and Organic Perry winning bronze at the 2019 Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). Meanwhile in the International Cider Challenge 2019 Breakwell Seedling won a gold medal.
Co-owner Julian Dunkerton commented, “2019 will be another milestone in the history of Dunkertons Organic Cider Company. Our organic ciders and perry have a very strong following but we knew the brand presentation required a complete refresh and that we needed a lower ABV cider in the range to appeal to a wider range of today’s discerning cider drinkers. The new packaging looks fantastic and each label reflects the individual characteristics of the deep flavour that all our ciders are renowned for. Launching these straight off the back of our award wins sees us entering another exciting chapter in the Dunkertons story”.