About the 2022 Vintage
March and April 2022 were considerably warmer than the long-term average and unsettled, showery weather continued into May. Blossomtime was unremarkable, possibly due to lack of 'cool hours' during the warm, wet winter.
A warm spell in early June was followed by an unusually dry and hot July/August with a heatwave over 18-19 July and just 54% of average rainfall.
October and November were generally mild and unsettled with few brief dry periods making dull conditions for harvest, but the hot summer gave us fabulous quality ripe fruit with high natural fruit sugar levels to work with. Once again, temperatures dropped below 12 degrees at the end of November just in time for us to start keeving our ‘Normandy method’ sparkling cider.
We started pressing Thorn perry pears on 14 September, a week earlier than in 2021. It was an abundant crop which we harvested over 5 days to yield 800 litres from four different orchards. We harvested some fruit early from young trees to give us the required acidity and blended back with very ripe fruit from older trees at home.
Aylton Red, Blakeney Red and Gregg's Pit (our eponymous perry pear variety) were again light croppers yielding just 600 litres, and we had to substitute Blakeney Red for Barnet (of which for a second year running there was none!) to make 800 litres of our mid-season blend of Blakeney Red, Brandy and Winnals Longdon. Late harvest Butt and Oldfield perry pears were low in yield but of very good quality and so we waited until the last possible moment to harvest them, blending back some very ripe Blakeney Red to make 300 litres which will make a fine bottle conditioned sparkling perry.
2022 was a ‘off’ year for Kingston Black cider apples and so we pressed just 450 litres in a blend with Browns Apple. Our favourite late harvest cider apples cropped well yielding 650 litres of Dabinett & Yarlington Mill all of which was keeved to make our ‘Normandy method’ sparkling cider.
Draught cider & perry
We changed our business model as a result of the Covid-19 and successive lockdowns during 2020/21. Before the pandemic we sold most of our draught products through our wholesalers to CAMRA beer and cider festivals across England, direct to pubs and retail customers and at local food and drink festivals. Now we are bottling >70% of our output, but we continue to supply draught cider and perry at wholesale prices, as follows:
10 or 20 litre ‘bag-in-box’ draught cider @ £3.00/litre (inclusive of packaging)
10 or 20 litre ‘bag-in-box’ draught perry @ £3.00/litre (inclusive of packaging)
The advantage of the ‘bag-in-box’ is that it’s a double skin food grade plastic bag inside a robust biodegradable cardboard box with no risk of spoilage.
Normandy method ‘keeved’ and bottled conditioned sparkling cider & perry
The Normandy method of producing a keeved naturally sparkling cider was a new venture for us in 2005 and these products are now much in demand. We mill the fruit and then set it aside to ‘macerate’ for up to 24 hours before pressing. We add a special enzyme to the tank before filling with raw juice and then a small quantity of calcium chloride is added about 36 hours later. We then pump it top and bottom to create a continuous closed circulation for 40 minutes. The result is a brown pectin-calcium gel (known as ‘Le chapeau brun’ or ‘brown hat’), which forms on the surface of the freshly pressed juice and absorbs the nitrogen and vitamins that would otherwise provide nutrient for the wild yeast.
After 10-15 days, when ‘Le chapeau brun’ is well formed (it can be up to 10 cm thick and is ready when brown and ‘crusty’), a clear, nutrient poor and slow fermenting juice can be racked off from underneath it. This will be suitable for final racking, filtration and bottling at a specific gravity of 1012-1015 after 6-9 months to produce a bottle conditioned medium to medium-dry cider/perry with a slight yeast deposit.
We have bottled and laid down in stillage 820 x 75cl bottles of our Dabinett & Yarlington Mill 2022 Normandy method naturally sparkling cider, as well as 620 x 75cl bottles of Blakeney Red, Brandy & Winnals Longdon 2022 bottle conditioned sparking perry.
We will bottle another 300 litres of Blakeney, Butt & Oldfield 2022 to make a bottle conditioned sparkling perry when natural fruit sugar levels drop to SG1012 later in the summer/early autumn. They will be available in a full weight champagne style bottle with mushroom cork and wire closure in 75cl and 150cl ‘magnum’ bottle formats.
Draught cider & perry
We made our first ‘Champagne Method’ bottle fermented perry in 2001.
In October 2021 we laid down 600 x 75cl bottles of our favourite Thorn – single variety 2020 perry for a second in-bottle fermentation. This product had a first fermentation in barrel during autumn/winter 2020/21 and a second 18-month in bottle fermentation during 2021-2023 prior to remuage and disgorging at Three Choirs Vineyards Ltd in May 2023. The 75cl bottle format is the same as for the bottle conditioned sparkling perry.
In addition, there are 380 x 75cl bottles of the 2021 vintage on lees in stillage and we plan to bottle a 500 litre vat of the 2022 vintage later this year.
In April 2017 we took a 300 vat of our 2015 draught perry to Charles Martell & Son Ltd at Dymock for distilling into Pear Spirit, which sold out very fast! After distilling four different vintages, we have learned that draught perry produces a better quality, smoother and more characteristically fruity spirit when distilled young soon after it has finished fermentation in late summer.
Our 2022 vintage Pear Spirit will be released in 50cl bottles with cork and foil closure @ £38.50/50cl (retail only).