What is the West Country Cider Style?

Cider Orchard

What is the West Country Cider Style?

If you are reading this, you must have at least a passing interest in cider. I suspect, in that case, that you realise that cider, just like wine, takes many different forms. Sadly, the standard low cost supermarket offering may bear only a passing resemblance to the fabulous apple nectar but, thankfully, there are still many cider makers across the UK who craft real cider using 100% fresh apple juice. Between us we produce a huge range of drinks, in style and taste, that satisfy every palate and demonstrate how the humble apple, in the hands of a skilled cider maker, can hold its own against any grape. Let’s examine why cider tastes the way it does, and how West Country ciders differ.

Cider Styles

Cider is the fermented juice of apples. It’s in the dictionary – so it must be true. Most of the cider in the world is a by-product of fruit that isn’t eaten fresh, or cooked. In the UK, areas like Kent, which have long been hotspots for growing eating apples, made the most of these resources by establishing a tradition of fermenting unsold apples into a simple pleasant drink.

But on the other side of the country, instead of finding a use for unwanted eating apples, the hunt was on for apples that would never be eaten but would be perfect for creating a very different style of fermented apple drink. Centuries of hard graft were devoted to perfecting the breeding and planting of entire orchards of inedible fruit. Exactly like with grapes, where varieties grown for wine are unpleasant to eat – but produce the most incredible drink – the same is true for cider apples. In the West Country they planted cider orchards and created a stunning drink! So, started the story of West Country cider.

West Country Cider Style

The West Country cider story goes back thousands of years. It is thought that apples arrived in Western Europe, via the Silk Route, from the Tien Shan mountain range, in what is modern-day Kazakhstan. The Romans and the Normans loved cider and, due to their influence, eventually we Brits adopted it, having realised that we have the perfect climate for growing apples in the UK, particularly in the West Country.

For centuries, cider apple growing was a core part of life in this part of the world. Every farmer grew cider apples to produce alcohol for their own consumption, to trade and to use as wages. The skills of grafting, breeding and propagating the right apples, perfect for cider, were honed and handed down from generation to generation. Each cider maker developed his own preferred style, using his favourite cider apple trees. This has left a rich legacy for today’s West Country cider makers. Something that we are trying to preserve with our work with Bristol University, mapping the DNA of our historic orchards.

west country cider apples

It’s All About the Apples

When you make cider solely from apples, those apples need to be just right. Our predecessors learned how to grow great cider apples and ferment, store and age their juice to create delicious rich cider. Thanks to them, Devon boasts the finest selection of bittersweet cider apple varieties that ferment well and have the perfect combination of sweetness/sugar, acidity and tannins. Sugar in a cider apple is essential. It is converted into alcohol and helps to preserve the cider. Acidity determines the bite and crispness. Tannins give astringency to the cider, the drying and bitter sensation. They help to preserve it and, over time, allow rich flavours to develop.

It is the tannins in West Country apples that make our ciders extra special. These bittersweet cider apples might not be good for eating, but they make fantastic cider! – which stands head and shoulders above the average bland pint. When you drink a glass of real West Country cider, you are enjoying the rewards of an ancient craft that has shaped our beautiful landscape.

Devon Red Cider

Delicious Devon Red

When it comes to West Country ciders, nothing captures the essence better than our Devon Red. Named after the rich red soil that nurtures our orchards, it is created from a careful selection of apple varieties including Dabinett and Sweet Alford, two excellent West Country cider apples. It is a celebration of a county that offers the best land and climate to produce slow growing, slow maturing apples and combines this with an expertise accumulated over hundreds of years of cider making experience. The result is a crisp, utterly delicious, fruity cider.

Devon Red is our best-selling and most well-known cider and this joyous bounty of our wonderful county has delighted consumers across the UK and as far afield as the Netherlands and Tokyo! If you haven’t already tried it, order some now or visit us at a sampling session this summer and test out some Devon Red for yourself.

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