New producers shared the limelight with old hands at this year’s Royal Three Counties International Cider & Perry Competition at the Royal Three Counties Show.
Mattias Pihlwret took home the Best in Show trophy for Out of the Orchard’s Orchard Frog cider. While home to the National Perry Pear Collection, Hartpury Orchard Centre, where Out of the Orchard is located, does not grow cider apples. So Mattias heads across the border into Herefordshire, to the historic parish of Much Dewchurch, to collect his fruit, a careful blend of four classic cider varieties, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Stoke Red and Kingston Black.
“It’s like when you bite into a cider apple. With a bit of toffee and caramel,” said Mattias as he sipped his golden-hued cider with its gentle tannins. “I handpick it, so there’s a lot of work,’ he said with a smile. “Hands and knees.”
So why the name, Orchard Frog? Based in rural Gloucestershire, Hartpury Orchard Centre has its own wetlands. The Ryeland sheep that graze the orchard in summer count on frogs, bats and adders as their neighbouts as well as the ducks, swans and herons who frequent the ponds.
Youth takes the lead
With similar entry numbers to 2018, the judges singled out the quality of the perries and the medium cider flight in particular as worthy of note.
While Tom Oliver took to the podium once more, scooping Best in Herefordshire with awards for bottle conditioned and sweet perries, and a sweet cider, it was Lucie Mayerová who did the double. Lucie, apprentice cider maker at Ragged Stone, followed up her 2018 Best in Worcestershire win with an even more convincing show of force this year.
2019 honours came with ciders from Lucie’s new brand, Naked Orchards. Scoring top marks in the Medium Perry category with her Fat Bottomed Girl Perry, Lucie explained how some of the fruit came from the Three Counties Showground itself. Planted as a planted as a national perry pear orchards, “We get the chance to pick it sometime,” explained Lucie. “And last year we got the chance.”
Lemony white gold in colour with a fragrant mix of pear aromas, and made “as naturally as possible”, Fat Bottomed Girl shows a winning blend of sweetness and sharpness, plus light tannin and pleasant texture.
“This one is a blend of many varieties,” said Lucie. “Including a special one called Hawkes Hill – currently there’s only one known tree. I will get on with grafting! It will also be planted in the national Collection of Perry Pears in Hartpury.”
Her winning dry cider, bright gold in the glass, was blended specially for the competition. There’s a hint of tannin alongside fresh Russet-like aromas and bright apple tang, indicating the cider apples alongside a high proportion of Bramley apples. This reflects the orchards where Lucie gathers her fruit from. “We work with what we’ve got,” she said with a smile.
Naked Orchards epitomises the team’s growing and cidermaking philosophy. Summer festival appearances and orchard duties mean that its digital presence has yet to land. “We’ll get on top of that as soon as possible, but no guarantees,” said Lucie. That’s not stopping her thinking of the future though. “We’ve got a lot of experimenting to do,” she said as we parted. Watch this space.
THANKS GO TO…
Competition manager Dave Sanders offered his thanks to this year’s enlarged judging panel, the Cider Gang, Pete Wilce, Wilce’s Cider, Ross Duncan, The Stable, and Ben Jaffe, Dragonfly Cider; and the Perry Squad, Ed French, Checkley Brook Cyder, Tracey Yarnold, aficionado, Phill Palmer, Palmer’s Upland Cyder, and Russell Sutcliffe, Innocent Pilgrim.
The Royal Three Counties International Cider & Perry Competition is kindly sponsored by Vigo Ltd and Cider Cellars.
Full results can be found here.
Head to facebook for images of the winners.