Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Cider Jar of the Month - Sheppy's

The farmers and cidermakers of the Sheppy family must have introduced a huge number of people to the joys of real Somerset cider over their 200 years in the business. Their award-winning ciders are available nationwide through several supermarket chains, and the base of operations at Bradford-on-Tone near Taunton welcomes visitors from near and far for tours, teas, and of course the sampling of their many blends of cider.

Sheppy's are one of the few supermarket distributed ciders I'm happy to buy, not because of some snobbish belief that only the smaller producers can make decent cider (though this is sadly all too often the case), but because Sheppy's ciders are to me much more distinctive and true to form than many of their competitors.

The cider sections of the larger supermarkets can give the impression they offer a great choice of distinctive ciders from producers large and small, but in my experience this is often far from the truth. Unfortunately most of the better quality ciders available from supermarkets seem to have been blended by committee. The supermarket buyers don't want distinctive ciders, they want ciders which appeal to as many people as possible, albeit in an unexciting and formulaic way. I'm sure that many of the cidermakers which supply this market make very good cider, but by the time their wares have been filtered, pasteurised, carbonated, sweetened-up, and who-knows what else-d, we're left with a good range of fairly decent ciders which sadly all taste the same.

Sheppy's on the other hand make ciders which somehow manage to survive the committee process and cling on to their individuality and distinctiveness. Their single variety ciders are a good example of this, remarkable in that they actually taste of the apple varieties they're made from. The Dabinett is very different to the Tremlett's Bitter, and probably not to everyone's taste, but then what would be the point of making it if this wasn't the case! My personal favourite has always been their Gold Medal Farmhouse Dry Cider, a still, full-flavoured cider, made from bittersweet and bittersharp cider apples. Too rich and tannic for most peoples taste I'd guess, and this is presumably why it's not so widely available.

I bought a bottle of Sheppy's Farmers Harvest to try whilst writing this, a new cider unveiled in 2008 to celebrate the centenary of the National Farmers Union. Now that I've big'd-up Sheppy's I have to admit that this isn't one of my favourites. It's quite a lightweight cider, very drinkable, with a bit of sweetness and a fair amount of rich bittersweet character, but the flavour fades a little too quickly for my liking. It's similar in style to some of the lighter Westons ciders, and I would imagine it would be quite popular as a draught cider, maybe even 'over-ice'...

Oh well, I guess this is what you get when it has to meet the approval of the committee. A kind of cidery Collective Bargaining.

1 comment:

Fegrig said...

I'll keep an eye out for that one sounds more to my taste although i must add not one of the cider and ice brigade.