Organic Wines


    History of Cider

   The origins of cider-making are lost in the mists of time.  The Romans almost certainly introduced apples to Britain and subsequent centuries of selective propagation resulted in hundreds of different varieties of cider apple by Victorian times.  Sadly, many of these are now lost, but some still survive.


Cider in Somerset 

     Cider and Somerset have almost always been inextricably linked.  At one time, every farm had a cider orchard and press.  Cider was an accepted portion of a labourer's wages.  Those days are now long gone.  With increased mechanisation and efficiency, orchards have been grubbed and lost, the cider presses rotted and scrapped, except for a few small producers like ourselves, who keep the old, traditional methods alive.

   Cider too has changed.  Most commercially produced cider is now made in factories, and is so processed, sweetened and packaged as to be unrecognisable to someone familiar with the old-fashioned farmhouse cider, also known as 'scrumpy'. 


   How we make cider

   We make our cider in the old, traditional way, starting with a good mixture of old varieties of cider apple, gathered by hand and put through a mill, which is run off the back of our old Ferguson tractor.  The apple pulp is shovelled onto a bed of oat-straw on the cider press and built up into a 'cheese', by alternating successive layers of straw and apple until the press can take no more, (about 1 ton of apples).  By the time this is done the trough is full of 'free-run' juice which has to be pumped to the fermentation vat.  A heavy wooden board, (the 'follower'), is placed on top of the cheese with crossbeams to transmit the pressure as the beam is lowered and tightened.  An impressive flow of juice soon fills the trough again.  However the remaining juice takes some serious work to extract.  A massive iron bar is used to turn the centre capstan, which drives the two huge cogwheels whose threaded shafts apply increasing pressure to the 'cheese'.  As the juice runs out, the pressure drops and so the press has to be continually retightened until it only dribbles and then drips.  The whole process takes at least a day, but we will often continue pressing for another day or more. 

   The spent 'pomace' is removed to the compost heap, where it can decompose and eventually return its nutrients to the soil.  The organic straw mixed with the pomace helps this process. 

   The juice is allowed to ferment naturally, using the wild yeast on the apples.  Most of our cider is simply racked off and sold as draught cider, straight from the barrel, as it always was in the past.  We also filter and bottle some cider, so that it keeps and travels better.    

     Pennard Organic Dry Cider

     The taste is dry, but soft, with a lingering, woody finish.  An interesting feature is that each batch of cider is liable to be different, depending on the mix of apple varieties gathered for each batch.  Our current batch is from 2003 and is probably some of the best cider we have made.  The apples were so sweet in that year that this cider has ended up with at least 8% alcohol.  Drink with respect from a wine glass.

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