Sunday, 15 June 2008

Checking Out the Opposition

This weekend we travelled to the Three Counties Cider & Perry Association's (TCCPA) annual competition at the Three Counties Show. This show is one of our favourites for many reasons, not least of which is the opportunity to chat with, and sample the wares of the many cider and perry makers who have stalls at the event.

This year we didn't enter the cider and perry competition due to difficulties getting our cider to the show, but the announcement of the winners on Friday was exciting for us nonetheless. Many of the winners are known to us, especially the Supreme Champion, Mike Johnson of Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Co. Mike is a great friend of ours, and mentor in all things to do with cidermaking. We are always happy to see Mike and his team win awards for the excellent cider and perry which is made at Broome Farm. It was such a shame that Mike wasn't there to collect this latest accolade.

One of the most interesting events organised by the TCCPA at the show are the tutored tastings, which also help to decide the 'People's Choice' cider. The tasting was given by Peter Mitchell, a respected consultant within the cider industry, and the tutor at a cidermaking course I attended in the early 90's. We tasted our way through four ciders and were asked to score them on a 'Most Dislike - Most Like' scale. The ciders we tried varied hugely in flavour, though all were very good quality. My approximate scores out of 10 were:
Ross-on-Wye Rum Cask Cider (4)
Barbourne Cider (6)
Rosie's Wicked Wasp (5)
Orchards Cider (8)

A little explaining is in order here. Mike's Rum Cask cider was technically excellent, but I just don't like spirit cask ciders. A Rum finish is better than that of Whisky, but I prefer the unadulterated taste of pure cider. The Barbourne was a very well made sweetish bittersweet cider, in the style of a French Cidre I thought. Nice, but a little too sweet for my taste. Rosie's Wicked Wasp was a very good 'Sharp' cider, possibly made from Bramley apples, or maybe Foxwhelp. Again, great quality, but just not to my taste. The orchards cider was an excellent example of a well balanced English cider, of a type I could happily drink every day. Lovely stuff.

Outside of the tastings the best we tried at the show was probably the Ralphs Perry, which was truly stunning and sets the benchmark even higher for our attempts at making perry this year. We came home laden with bottles and flagons, and look forward to next year's show when we hope to enter the competition ourselves, though on this year's outstanding standard, we certainly don't expect to actually win anything!

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