Golden Fork from Wales (L-R) John Farrand, Guild of Fine Food, Ben and Stephanie Culpin of Apple County Cider Co and Dave Morris, Food and Drink Wales

Forking Brilliant!

At the culmination of this year’s Great Taste Awards, we were thrilled and honoured to collect our second Golden Fork for the best food or drink product from Wales.  And we had a fabulous time at the awards dinner!

Dabinett Cider bottle and glass

Last year our Vilberie sparkling cider won this coveted award. And this year proved to be our Dabinett cider’s time to shine. Although, we very nearly didn’t enter the Dabinett this year, it got an overwhelming 3-star response from the judges. You can read all about that part of the story in our last blog post.

On the evening of the Golden Forks awards bash, we had a bit of a race to get there in time. All through the day we’d been busy on our stand at the Speciality and Fine Foods Show at Olympia. We didn’t have long to dash back to our friend’s house (thanks for having us Belinda!), don our glad rags and race to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. Over 300 guests from the world of fine food gathered to hear the final results of many months of rigorous judging in the Great Taste Awards. Of 10,000 products entered, the pick of the 3-star crop had made the Top 50 final cut as published in The Times in August. That night, just 8 golden forks would be awarded for the best food or drink in each region.

When we attended the Golden Fork Awards dinner for the first time last year, it was without the pressure of any expectation. This year felt a little different. On the one hand, we knew a lot more people, and were looking forward to renewing some inspiring foodie acquaintances. But on the other hand, with our taste of success last year, we couldn’t help feel but feel more nervous second time around.

To quell our nerves there were bubbles and delicious canapes featuring Great Taste winning products. We had a great chat with Pat Whelan, last year’s supreme champion for his jaw-droppingly good beef dripping from Clonmel in Co. Tipperary. Ben had lots of banter with Valentine Warner; we simply love his approach to food. In fact, Apple County Cider are sponsoring his masterclass spot at the Abergavenny Food Festival this coming weekend. He has promised to bring down a bottle of his own new Hepple gin for us!

It was fantastic to chat to Pete Brown, a man who really knows his cider: author of an a beautiful and engaging book ‘The World’s Best Cider.’ So it was more than gratifying to hear that Pete had chosen to drink our cider at the Green Man festival this summer. He told us that he could pick out the special quality of Ben’s cider in blind tastings. Which is high praise from someone so knowledgeable about cider and well-respected for his taste reviews.

Our table this year was right in front of the stage which did little help with the nerves. But good company and great food from Head Chef Steve Munkley, were an excellent distraction. Especially the main course of oven-roasted Presa Iberica free range pork, with apple mash, spinach and mushroom torte, all deliciously finished with an Apple County Cider Dabinett jus.

From the fine food on our plates to the fine foods celebrated on the stage; we were thrilled to see Welsh Hilltop Honey collect the Nigel Barden Heritage award for their Raw Thyme Honey. And who could fail to be inspired by Hannan Meats, who added 2 new Golden Forks to their considerable Great Taste Awards collection; now including Supreme Champion for the second time!

In the running for the best Welsh product this year, alongside our Dabinett cider this year were: 3-star award-winning Traditional Welsh Caerphilly from Conwyn-based Bodnant Welsh Food, and Hilltop Honey’s Raw Thyme Honey again. And when David announced that the winner, for the second year running, was APPLE COUNTY CIDER we felt completely overwhelmed – euphoric!

Tired, and a little jaded next morning, we were nonetheless keen to get back on our stand at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair. And we had a heart-warming cheer from our friends in the Food and Drink Wales area. We made new contacts on the back of our Golden Fork success. Apple County Cider is a young business and every new customer is important to us.

As cider-makers we feel more at home in our wellies, than posh togs. So it was great to get home to the farm for a much less glamorous celebration with our young son Francis. He was very impressed with his Daddy’s golden forks and keen to hold them. We feel buoyed up by winning the Golden Fork, but there is no time to dwell on it, as we are busy as ever at Apple County.

We’re very proud of our Golden Fork winning Vilberie and now Dabinett ciders. Although, with our new Yarlington Mill there are now 3 sparkling ciders in our range. Perhaps next year, we’ll even have a go at the hat-trick…

Great Taste Wales 2016

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