Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Heritage English Cider and the missing cider blogger...

First off, may I humbly apologise for being absent for, well, a month.

It wasn't you, it was me!

There are ciders waiting to be written up and there are ciders waiting to be tasted... there is even a 'missing' notepad with my last reviews from Winchester Beer Festival back in March! (n.b. to self - I haven't got my GBBF ticket yet!!)

However, I have been very busy. Not just busy selling cider to people... or busy winning a couple (or more) awards for my cider... (which is always great!). Lets face it, those are the things I want to be doing. Not even just doing a bit of judging of ciders... though that was a lot of fun! Nope, this is a little different...

You see, I have been involved in writing, consulting, re-writing, talking, meeting and finally getting a presentation for a proposal of a PGI for well made, traditional English cider and perry. Well, I have hinted at it no here for some time eh. And it looks like it has got some legs to it.

The aim for a 'Heritage English Cider/Perry PGI' is to showcase the highest quality cider and perry produced within England and set a standard for quality products way beyond the pretty loose regulations set by HMRC. It seeks to differentiate the good stuff from the lower juice, mass produced 'brands' and to create something that is recognisable to the public.

A PGI, or Protected Geographical Indication, is a device used within and run by the EU via DEFRA (in the UK). It sets out regulations and criteria for a product - essentially ensuring that traditional products and methods can be protected and promoted. Sounds just right for high juice cider eh! Beyond that, criteria for quality can be included within the PGI - well, it is true that both the best AND worst ciders in England are traditionally made, high juice ciders! (though I realise some may disagree with the 'worst' bit:-)

It all started some 12-18 months ago and has taken time to get to a point where discussions can be held with the National Association as well as attempting to consult with as many craft/high juice producers as possible. And now it has been presented at the Cider Trends summit in Bristol it is well and truly in the public domain.

The nuts and bolts are found in the 'infographic' below... well, when you are presenting to PR and marketing types it is wise to at least try and speak the language:-)

click for larger version

Done well, it could add value to high juice cider and maybe even encourage some to raise their bar a little. And it does all of this without throwing any toys out of the pram, upsetting the 'apple cart' and allows the larger family of cider producers to continue to innovate and/or do whatever they do.

With nearly 50 producers signalling their support for the PGI so far - and more looking at it (and yet to look at it), this process is not complete yet. However, it has dispelled the common opinion that cidermakers cannot agree on anything - or that we aren't organised enough to do something new!

There are so many reasons for applying for a PGI - reinforcing traditionally made cider/perry and separating them from the mass produced cider is one thing (it will only be when numbers of producers are using it that it becomes a recognisable and reliable indication). It is also something that cider and perry producers can pin their credentials to... without having to comply with silly 'definitions' and restrictions on parts of the process that, quite frankly, just end up misleading and confusing drinkers all the more!

And saying that, it is probably worth saying that this is a process worked out by cider/perry producers for the benefit of the drinkers. Of course opinions are always welcome from anyone; its just that the opinions that will make a difference are those of producers.

There is a lot of work still left to do - but hopefully I can at least get back to the ciders and perries - after all, the drinking is so much more fun than the talking! I will post more detailed information as I am able.


  1. Why allow adding sugar pre fermentation? Apples, even during low sugar years are high in natural fermentable sugars so not sure a) why this is necessary and b) why you would want to do it?

  2. Hi @Pom'Ace,

    There are some very practical reasons for allowing the addition of sugar, and it is something worth having up your sleeve for very poor (often wet) years.

    Cider naturally ferments to between 5-7.5% in standard years. However, some varieties can get down to about 3% in particularly poor years. This is a problem for the craft producer - the % is useful for protecting against infections etc. when kept well... but at 3-4% it isn't effective. So a producer may (and some do) add sugar to raise the SG prior to fermentation.

    So - in the main I doubt producers will use this, but why rule something out that can be a useful part of the cider makers toolkit?

    Its the same with dilution. Sure, if you can get weaker juice then that is the ideal option - but in a very good year it is feasable that there won't be any. As UK duty rules are up to 7.5% for cider, it is (again) a useful tool and one that has been used for generations by craft producers. After all, the duty over 7.5% is a lot more - and even a duty exempt producer would have to pay it (in fact, it would knock them out of exemption for their whole production).

    So - both are a practical solution to particular problems and ruling them out would be excessively pedantic. And its worth noting that these are 'minimum' requirements (you don't have to add sugar or dilute for the PGI) - and subject to the 85% minimum juice... which itself is a 'minimum'.

    Although to a bystander they may appear to make things more complicated, they are designed to make things more straightforward for craft producers.

    Hope that clarifies things for you.