Take 90 pure juice ciders and perries. Add a generous measure of sunshine. Serve up with live music in a beautiful setting. And you have a recipe for a great cider festival!
The Welsh Cider and Perry festival is always a highlight on the Apple County calendar. And this year was no disappointment. The organisers welcomed more than 3000 cider fans over 4 days, reaching capacity early on the Saturday. The festival takes place near Chepstow within the walls of Caldicot Castle – a stunning, historic backdrop to a lovely relaxed event.
Attending as a producer we do a stint behind the bar. It’s a great chance to chat with a range of cider drinkers from wide-eyed new converts to the old-time cider stalwarts. You could also find our sparkling Vilberie, Dabinet and Perry bottles at the popular ‘Rock the Fizz Bar.’ The Shareef may not like it but the punters did; our Apple County bottles all sold out!
It was great to catch up with other Welsh cider makers. Ben also had the pleasure of taking part in the all-important judging. This took place in an impressive long room on the first floor of the castle. The tables were set out banqueting style and flags hanging from the ceiling added to that medieval banquet feeling. And with such an array of ciders, I don’t think any knights-at-arms would have worried too much about the lack of food. The judges blind-taste all the ciders and score them out of 10. It’s a tough job…
Later that day, they announced the winners from the main stage and we were thrilled to win Gold for our Blakeney Red Sparkling Perry. A few moments later we heard we’d won the Perry Champion of Champions. It was amazing to receive this accolade for our first foray into the world of the perry pear. What a feeling!
This is the first time we’ve entered our perry in any competitions. We’ve approached this Perry a little differently from our ciders. Normally we use our wine-makers yeast to slowly elicit just the right flavours during our slow cold fermentation process. With our Blackeney Red perry we took a different approach, experimenting with wild yeast fermentation. We think the result was light, elegant and refreshing and it’s great to know expert Cider and Perry makers agreed.
In the flurry of perry orders post festival we have all but sold out! And unfortunately we weren’t able to source the perry pears we needed last September. We will definitely be making the perry again this autumn but new fans will have to wait until next summer to enjoy it again. In the meantime, forgive us if we save the last few cases just for us. Maker’s privilege!