Wednesday 28 November 2012

Ashgrove Orchards, Orchard Harvest

Orchard Harvest is not exactly a cider. Its a cider (with pear juice). So, is this going to be a 'pyder' then? Pyder is a name that I have only recently come across to describe an apple/pear concoction. I am not at all sure of the genesis of this word - whether it is new or traditional (such as 'cyser' being a traditional name for cider with honey). If new, its merely a clever use of the letter P!

So, I can tell you that HMRC Notice 162 (the 'official' regulations for what is cider/perry) says that you can add 25% pear juice to cider and visa versa. I make no apology for continually coming back to Notice 162. Its what I would look at when judging technical cidery things. It is far from perfect;it allows for a minimum juice content of 35% for cider... which is far too low for my liking. However, it is the guide that tells you what level of duty producers pay and how they should refer to their drink. A couple of useful snippets that my surprise some:
  • Cider is cider up to 8.5%, when it becomes wine (Made Wine)
  • A cider with adjuncts (i.e. Strawberry Cider) is a wine, not a cider. It should be referred to as "Cider with XXX" and pays made wine duty. It is not allowed within the scope of the cider makers exemption
  • Cider may be sweetened and pasteurised with sugar, juice, sucralose, aspartame or saccharin
This is what producers look at as a point of reference; it is the main criteria to follow first and foremost - well, many producers place more stringent standards on themselves then this - some don't. OK. Enough of that. It does serve a purpose though: whilst I accept that there are several other 'definitions' out there (I guess the most obvious one being the CAMRA definition), they are at best only guidelines and certainly not definitive. The CAMRA definition itself has a lot of problems that it has struggled to overcome - I would say its not a bad starting point, but needs to lean more on Notice 162 to give it a little more authority and less wishy washy 'good intention'. Although a consumer organisation, that is of no consequence if they are just going to end up being ignored by the industry that they are a part of.

This cider/perry/whatever, is (interestingly) distributed for the producer by Mayfields Brewery... that isn't a bad idea. It is also Herefordshire PGI - which means it is made in Herefordshire with Herefordshire fruit. Again, a good idea (and its not that restrictive really). I also notice that it says that they use pear juice to sweeten the cider. Now I understand - so its merely a fraction of pear juice and mostly cider then. Another neat idea, as pears have a non fermentable sugar (I think its called 'sorbitol')... though I rather think that this will have been sweetened and pasteurised rather than just relying on a little sorbitol!!

Orchard Harvest gives off a bit of a fizz at opening, but settles down well. Well, when I say that, it is still a little lively. It's aroma is thick, tannic and you will get the pear notes in there too.

Happily, to taste, the apples win over the pears by quite a way. It is heavily bittersweet and the tannins prove to be quite drying. It's by no means a 'pyder' - although the pears are present in the mouth initially, it disappears quickly for the sake of the cider. This is an earthy cider - I would hazard more medium dry than medium (when you account for the drying tannin). There is some acid in here, but it is way in the background.

The aftertaste continues to be long, earthy and very western in style. And longer still. Very nice. Its generally a very well done cider - tasty and deep in flavour, albeit a little bit lively.

A score of 78/100 proves I like this one - bronze apple for Ashgrove.

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