Cider makers across the South West have responded to the continued absence of gatherings by launching a cyber celebration to mark South West Cider Week.
Such is the ingenuity and determination of producers around the region that a packed programme of events actually exceeds one week – stretching from Friday 12 June to Sunday 21 June.
During that time, cider drinkers and serious aficionados alike can enjoy online tastings, virtual tours, a cyber meet and greet with producers and even a drive through cider shop followed by an orchard walk.
The events are being organised by cider makers and retailers themselves, and co-ordinated through the website, www.swciderweek.org.uk and on social media using the hashtag #swciderweek.
As the oldest drink produced in the UK cider making in the South West is steeped in centuries of history. This is not by chance as it is the combination of the landscape, soil and weather that mean that apple orchards flourish in the region – especially those planted with the bittersweet fruit varieties that have made West Country ciders famous around the world. Though it is also a sector and a region noted for much of the innovation in terms of producing different styles of cider, orcharding practices and product manufacture.
The dozens of events that make up the South West Cider Week are being coordinated by the South West of England Cidermakers’ Association (SWECA).
Martin Berkeley of Pilton Cider is organising the SWECA involvement. He said: “Sharing a glass of cider in good company is a fabulous thing and vital to many of the social connections we make. It is also so important commercially for hundreds of businesses across our region.
“Whilst it might a while before we can gather in person, we were determined to see how we could still celebrate cider.
“The response, thanks to the imagination and resilience of cider makers has been fantastic and as a result, we will – virtually – invite the world to share our passion for the drink so synonymous with the South West.”
As well as showcasing the skills of cider makers and revealing the great matches with other regional produce like cheese, it is hoped that the series of events will also provide a much-needed boost to producers given lost sales through pubs and bars and the absence of tourism this summer.
The scale of the loss to producers is significant as a third of cider sales, representing two-thirds of the value, are through on-trade outlets. For 2019, that amounted to £2bn in sales (Westons Cider Report).
To amplify this effort many businesses are offering discounts for online sales and some specialist retailers are putting together mixed cases that reflect the great breath of quality drinks produced across the region.
Support for the South West Cider Week was immediately forthcoming from the body representing the UK cider industry – the biggest cider market in the world.
For the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM), Mark Hopper said: “We know that cider makers like nothing more than being able to share their craft with people – whether those consumers are new to cider or familiar with the many styles available.
“The continued absence of the chance to meet people in person is understood, though it has an impact.
“That producers right across the South West have come together to create ten days packed with different ways to enjoy cider is fantastic. We will do all we can to encourage people to join at least one of the events.”
The cider makers stepping up to the cyber challenge range from small producers new to the sector like Find & Foster and Ganley & Nash to established businesses of scale with hundreds of years of history like Sheppy’s and Thatchers Cider.
Market data from the Westons Cider Report, 2020:
- UK producers made around 783m litres of cider in 2019
- The value of sales in 2019 was worth £3.1bn
- On-trade outlets accounted for around a third of sales (38%) worth £2bn
- UK cider sales represent 37.5% of cider sales worldwide