A new generation of ciders

PUBLISHED: 11:30 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:43 12 October 2020

Dragon Orchard Putley   Photo: Haygrove Evolution Ltd

Dragon Orchard Putley Photo: Haygrove Evolution Ltd

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This month many cider producers are harvesting their fruit and there’s a new campaign promoting cider made like wine, from 100 per cent apples or pears

Cidentro apples    Photo: Cooks Cider ltdCidentro apples Photo: Cooks Cider ltd

I must confess I spent many a night during my younger years drinking cans of cheap cider at parties. I should probably also admit I never really stopped to think about what was in these ciders - and perhaps that was wise, as I’ve since found out it is mainly fruit concentrate and artificial sweeteners.

Recently, though, I was introduced to Alistair Morrell, a wine guru from Maidenhead in Berkshire, and he has opened my eyes to a whole new world of ciders that I never knew existed. I’m talking about ciders, like wines, which are fermented from 100 per cent British apples instead of grapes.

Alistair has spent over 30 years working in the wine industry as a buyer and seller. “My previous job was all about how to bring wine to people. I lived in Australia for a year and came back enthusiastic about their wine. Today, Australia is the biggest supplier of wine to the UK and I am proud to say I was a part of that journey,” he says.

“After all these years working in the drinks sector, imagine my surprise when I discovered there are no global standards for cider,” he says. “A wine made from grapes must contain 100 per cent grape content with no concentrates, so why shouldn’t ciders and perries?”

Roddy, left, and Alistair    Photo: Cider is WineRoddy, left, and Alistair Photo: Cider is Wine

After a little more investigation, Alistair and his colleague, Roddy Kane, who has also had a long career in the drinks industry, discovered most mass-market ciders in the UK contain as little as 35 per cent apple or pear juice, all of which can come from concentrate.

This got them thinking... “We felt the need to up these standards,” Alistair says. “We wanted to introduce a quality mark that defines ciders that contain 100 per cent freshly pressed fruit, not from concentrate.”

And so Cider is Wine was born; a campaign for cider producers to gain respect.

“We stand for something very particular,” says Alistair. “Our job is to educate people that there are ciders out there that are reflective of our British heritage. We have a rich culture of cider making that goes back to before Roman Times and the UK is the biggest cider market in the world with 40% share. And what’s more, many of these ciders are lovingly produced by skillful makers, using local artisan principles, and beautifully presented in classy bottles.”

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These ciders reflect the mood of where people are at. “People no longer want to drink cheap cider that is made from concentrate. People want to drink something authentic; something real; something premium,” Alistair adds. Plus many of these ciders also contain less alcohol, most of them are vegan and also gluten-free, which also holds great appeal for the modern-day consumer.

“We want cider to be seen as a premium buy. For too long it has been seen as a mass-market product and low-value experience,” he says. “Now we are asking people to look again, pick ciders that have the Cider is Wine logo, meaning it has been made exclusively from 100 per cent apple and/or pear juice without any concentrates, and see what you think. I think you’ll be both surprised and delighted.”

Alistair and Roddy are busy trying to get the word out there by hosting regular cider-tasting events, holding food and cider pairing evenings (cheese and cider goes well, apparently) and they also have a stunning webshop for you to browse at your leisure.

“We went to a wine tasting event recently and someone came up to us at the end and said: ‘Well, thanks a lot, guys. You ruined the wine tasting for me - the cider was much better!’ That’s what we like to hear!” says Alistair. “I have a goal for Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, to be putting bottles of Cider is Wine marked bottles on her tables in meetings, and a vision that by 2030, all consumers will be aware of what’s in the cider they’re drinking and that ciders and perries will be recognsied as being an alcoholic product that comes from 100% apples or pears.”

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