Thursday, 21 January 2010

First Taste - The Perrys

It's been almost four months now since our first pressing of the season, a trailer load of Malvern Hills perry pears, at a peak of sugary ripeness despite being picked in September. Unlike the later pressings of cider fruit, fermentation was quite rapid owing to the warm Autumn weather, and had all but finished by the time things turned colder in November. For this reason, Malvern Hills Perry can often be one of the earliest perrys available in the season, and I've been lucky enough to try some fine examples as early as mid-March.

Of all the different ciders and perrys we've pressed this season, the Malvern Hills is the one I've been most looking forward to trying. It's a particular favourite of mine, usually very pale in colour, crystal clear, with an exceptionally clean, fruity flavour. Like most perrys, Malvern Hills has a light, fragrant quality, Elderflower-like aroma, and fresh, fruity flavour. When sampled straight from the vat, there will often be a pleasant prickle of dissolved CO2, which only serves to enhance the delicate flavour of this highly regarded perry. It can also be very strong! Our Malvern Hills perry has been toned down a little through topping up with a smaller quantity of Blakney Red pear juice. Even so, it's still likely to achieve an alcohol level of 8.0% or more, which is around the maximum permitted level for a drink taxed as perry.

It's the 'racking-off' that provides us with the first opportunity to taste the fruits of last years Autumn labour. 'Racking' is the process of carefully syphoning the young ciders and perrys off the old yeast deposit (sometimes known as the Lees) into fresh vats. This can help to clarify the drink, but it's main purpose is to reduce the chance of 'off flavours' developing as the old yeast deposit breaks down over time. It's also a great opportunity to assess the general quality of each batch, and it may also be desirable to do a bit of blending at this stage. Finding a vat which has cleared naturally and lost the 'yeastiness' of a young, immature cider, is a real bonus at this time of year.

I spent most of Sunday racking the ciders and perrys, an exhausting task even with the help of our efficient little pump. The ciders are, not surprisingly, still very cloudy, and some months away from full maturity. In fact some of the very late pressings such as the Vilberie, which wasn't processed until mid-November, are not even ready to be racked yet. The perrys are much further forward, and showing great promise.

Malvern Hills - Clear, clean tasting, and showing only a slight yeastiness. This perry is almost ready to drink, though far too tannic at the moment. Needs another few months to mellow and soften, but should be an exceptional perry when ready.

Blakeney Red - We have two vats of Blakeney, one being quite cloudy, and still showing signs of fermentation. The other vat has cleared nicely, and finished fermenting with some sweetness remaining. It's soft, light and very well balanced, but still showing a very slight yeastiness. Now we've racked this off, I'm confident this should be ready for the forthcoming Leicester CAMRA Beer Festival in March.

Green Horse - Young, somewhat hazy in appearance, but the mild tannins in this should make for a very drinkable perry in another few months.

Vat #25 (Unknown Perry Pear) - Pale and hazy like homemade Lemonade. It may stay this way or clear to near colourless. This is fully fermented and quite dry, with a harder, slightly bitter tannin. Needs more time.

Vat #2 (Unknown Perry Pear) - A real surprise this one. Still very tannic, and therefore not quite ready, but a lovely pale golden perry, crystal clear with a delicious juicy-fruits flavour. Sadly most of this perry has been used for topping up purposes, though a very small quantity has been set aside for bottling and giving away to the long list of people who helped us make it!
Next: The Ciders


Henry Johnson said...

That one in the photo looks very good. Are you doing a bottle conditioned perry this year too?

Karen and Mark said...

The one in the pic is Vat #2, the topping-up vat. Bottling for sale involves a whole world of additional Environmental Health/Trading Standards precautions and procedures. Until we're equipped to deal with them in the ciderhouse we just bottle for our own use. IMO perry suits bottle conditioning much better than cider, and I certainly plan to bottle up some of our perry into Champagne bottles this year.