Monday, 26 April 2010
So can the National Trust make Cider?
Obviously I'm not talking about the whole of the National Trust, just the bits of it that claim cidermaking prowess, like Killerton - you have to love the name - in Devon or Barrington Court in Somerset.
I stopped by there on a madcap journey around most of the county recently. In fact I was en route to Burrow Hill from Perry's at Dowlish Wake when I spotted the NT sign and remembered that there'd been a wassail at Barrington this year or last. Something about burning wicker apples on a bonfire... So I stopped and went in to admire the small but informative cidermaking exhibition, and the large, beautiful orchards.
Not orchards like James Ravilious photographed, but lovely all the same, set against long ham stone walls and the tall chimneys of the Big House.
I got lost in a maze of walled gardens - I was concentrating on the espaliered fruit trees and missed a sign - but eventually found the shop. Did they have cider? They did. They also had earthenware wassail cups but that wasn't what I needed. I picked up a bottle, then looked at the price. A jingle of coppers less than £5, for a 70cl bottle. You can buy some quite nice cider for £5, or a lot more less nice cider. I'm sure you could get an extremely large bottle of White Death.
I resisted. Thought again. Resisted a bit more. Suppose it really was that good. The sun was shining. I caved in like a badly built shed.
For a couple of days the cider sat in the fridge. I didn't dare open it. Then, last night, I couldn't stand it any longer. The first sip had that slightly gassy quality of cider that's a bit young, but after that it was good. That delicious Somerset cider which is nothing but very good apples pressed and fermented sensibly. No sugar. No sweetener. No carbonation. No nothing except proper apples. I'd need to go to wine writer school to describe the flavour, which involved all the different qualities of the different varieties.
The point is, I think, that cider made on a small scale, with care and good fruit, can be wonderful. Somebody said to me recently that the best cider is the one you make yourself, and that may well be true...