Industry Recognises Parliamentary Cider Champions

Industry Recognises Parliamentary Cider Champions

UK cider industry leaders gathered in Westminster on 24 May to recognise the MPs who champion cider companies, the people who work for them, the farmers growing cider apples and the rural communities that benefit from the Great British cider industry.

The event organised by the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM), was hosted by Sir Bill Wiggin MP, President of the All-Party Parliamentary Cider Group (APPCG).

MPs from cider growing areas including the West Midlands and South West were recognised for their long standing commitment to the industry. Cider Makers from across the regions presented MPs with a personalised gift box including a selection of British ciders and a commemorative cider glass.

Speaking at the event, James Crampton, Chair of the NACM commented that “the MPs who were recognised this evening go above and beyond to ensure that our small, rural industry is recognised for its great contribution to the UK and to British culture. It was great to finally gather people together after a gap of more than two years, to say thank you for their support and for making sure that cider making and cider apple growing remain a priority for the government. The continued support of these MPs is critical to sustain the livelihoods of the 11,500 people that rely on the industry”.

Sir Bill Wiggin MP, Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire, said, “it is always a delight to represent and promote Great British cider makers and the fantastic ciders that they produce.

“Cider making contributes to our rural counties including Herefordshire and as the UK are global market leaders we should be proud to support this fantastic British success story.”

Members of Parliament Recognised

Sir Bill Wiggin MP, North Herefordshire
Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, Bridgwater & West Somerset
Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, Hereford & South Herefordshire
Harriett Baldwin MP, West Worcestershire
Rt Hon Mel Stride MP, Central Devon
Rebecca Pow MP, Taunton Deane
John Penrose MP, Weston-super-Mare

Cider Makers presenting Awards

James Crampton, Chair of the NACM and Corporate Affairs Director at Heineken UK
Helen Thomas, Managing Director at Westons Cider
Martin Thatcher, Managing Director at Thatchers Cider
Barny Butterfield, Owner at Sandford Orchards
Geoff Thompson and his daughter Eliza Thompson, Owner at Oldfields Cider
David and Louisa Sheppy, Managing Director at Sheppy’s Cider

THATCHERS CIDER CREATING A NATURE CONSERVATION AREA FOR MYRTLE FARM

THATCHERS CIDER CREATING A NATURE CONSERVATION AREA FOR MYRTLE FARM

The specially created wildlife area, which will extend to approximately an acre in size, will run alongside the popular Strawberry Line cycle and footpath in Sandford, with family-run cider maker Thatchers hoping it will make a real contribution to the local environment and the biodiversity of the area.

Emma Pyle, Thatchers Cider, helps plant wildflowers in a new conservation area being planned by the Somerset Cider Maker

Two areas of coppice woodland will border a central grassland plateau. Planting of 169 trees and hedges includes native species such as hawthorn and hazel, English oak and field maple, together with more planting of grasses and nectar-rich wildflowers. This planting will help create sheltered micro-habitats, and will aid the important retention of a dark corridor for bats and other wildlife.

A special group of ten trees along The Strawberry Line has been planted and dedicated to the Queens Green Canopy campaign, celebrating the Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

Eleanor Thatcher, right, and Andy Jones, Avon Wildlife Trust, plant wildflowers in a new conservation area being planned by Somerset cider maker Thatchers

With its 500 acres of Somerset apple orchard, Thatchers is already home to a diverse habitat, and at Myrtle Farm has recorded 13 species of bat, as well as birds which are on the BOCC (Birds of Conservation Concern) Red and Amber lists, including house sparrow and redwing, grey wagtail and mistle thrush. It is hoped that the new conservation area will become a familiar home to many of these species, with the trees and plants selected to create a protected and foraging-rich haven.

“It’s important to us to maintain the biodiversity of our site here at Myrtle Farm,” says Gary Delafield, Operations Director at Thatchers. “As a cider maker rooted in the rural community, we’ve always been surrounded by trees and farmland, and recognise the role that a biodiverse environment plays. Myrtle Farm is already a very vibrant place for wildlife, and with this new conservation area, we’ll be increasing its biodiversity by over 85%.”

The habitat is expected provide a picturesque and interesting stop off point along the Strawberry Line, which is designated as a public footpath running alongside Myrtle Farm.

Thatchers has been working closely with the Avon Wildlife Trust in creating the area, together with arboricultural consultancy Cambium.

Fifth generation cider maker Eleanor Thatcher has been closely involved in the planning of the conservation area.

“Myrtle Farm is where I’ve grown up, and I’ve been used to seeing animals such as deer and hare in the orchards from an early age. It’s so important for us to encourage wildlife at Myrtle Farm,” she says. “This new conservation area will bring the wildlife right into the heart of Myrtle Farm, and we can’t wait to see which visitors will be the first to arrive in the Spring.”

Thatchers and the Avon Wildlife Trust will be erecting information boards alongside the conservation area, featuring more detail about the planting and resident wildlife.

Eleanor concludes, “We are no strangers to planting trees – in fact over the last decade Thatchers has planted some 158,000 apple trees in our orchards. And in 2022 we’re continuing to donate hundreds of apple trees to organisations and charities taking part in our Community Orchard Project. Our orchards are already havens for wildlife, but this conservation area is extra special, creating a new protected habitat for birds, animals and insects here at Myrtle Farm.”

FINGERPRINTING HELPS IDENTIFY HERITAGE APPLE VARIETIES

FINGERPRINTING HELPS IDENTIFY HERITAGE APPLE VARIETIES

With the largest and most diverse collection of apples used in cider making under its care, Somerset cider maker Thatchers has been partnering with the University of Bristol in a ground-breaking project that is using DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify apple tree varieties.

With many old and heritage varieties of apple trees beginning to disappear, the project is using genotyping – a process that compares DNA to find the differences in genetic make-up – to identify different varieties of cider apples.

Prof Keith Edwards, University of Bristol, left, with Chris Muntz-Torres, Thatchers Cider, collecting leaf samples for a ground breaking project that uses DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify apple tree varieties.

Led by Professor Keith Edwards from the School of Biological Sciences and post-graduate student Alex Graham [pictured main photo], scientists from the university visited Thatchers’ Exhibition Orchard to gather leaf samples for genotyping and thus identification. The biggest collection of apples for cider making in the country, Thatchers’ Exhibition Orchard contains hundreds of different varieties of apple tree, many of which were saved from the Long Ashton Research Station when cider research stopped in 1985. The researchers have also been out to other Thatchers’ orchards to gather samples, helping them create the largest database of apple tree fingerprints in the world, with over 2,500 genotypes present.

Chris Muntz-Torres, Thatchers Farm Manager has been involved in the project since its inception. “This is such a fantastic piece of research which will help us understand even more about the trees in our orchards. As with any research, you’re not always sure what’s going to be found. Although we think we know about the trees in our Exhibition Orchard with detailed plans we’ve compiled over the years as new trees have been planted, you never know, the research may identify variety that’s been lost and now rediscovered. That would be such an exciting find!

“By using the DNA technique to tell us more about the pedigree of each variety in our Exhibition orchard, we hope to be able to start creating new varieties of apple for cider making with the characteristics that we love as cider makers.”

Professor Edwards says, “By taking a leaf and fingerprinting it, we are in effect creating a barcode for that tree. And from that we are able to produce a reliable process for easy identification in the future.

“By visiting the UK’s most influential orchards, such as at Brogdale, The National Botanic Garden of Wales, and the Thatchers Exhibition Orchard, we’re creating a database that will be a valuable resource like no other for all cider makers.”

The researchers also asked local communities to send in leaf samples from unidentified apple trees in their gardens or allotments to help in the project.

“This is a 20-30 year process,” adds Alex Graham, who has collected some 2,500 leaf samples for the research. “The results will tell us what varieties we have now and the pedigree of each, assisting with future breeding of new varieties, perhaps high in tannin, or disease resistant. We need to make sure this knowledge is secure for the future of cider making.”

Family cider maker Thatchers Cider has over 500 acres of its own orchard in Somerset. By choosing its apple varieties carefully, and ensuring an exceptionally high standard of fruit grown in its orchards, Thatchers cider makers have created a distinctive style for its products, helping it grow to be the largest independently owned cider maker in the UK.

www.thatcherscider.co.uk

CHRISTON SINGLE ORCHARD CIDER HAS A BLEND OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY

CHRISTON SINGLE ORCHARD CIDER HAS A BLEND OF YESTERDAY AND TODAY

[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.

Christon Orchard

Christon Orchard

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.”

Christon Single Orchard cider is part of the Thatchers Cider Barn range, and is available online and from the Thatchers Cider shop in Sandford, price £2.55 for 500ml.

 

 

Thatchers’ new TV commercial, Family, launches next week

Thatchers’ new TV commercial, Family, launches next week

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.

www.thatcherscider.co.uk