Drinks writer and broadcaster Pete Brown on ciders for all occasions
What’s your favourite cider for everyday drinking?
At this time of year, it’s something like Hallets Real Cider. There’s lots of confusion about what makes a ‘real’ or good cider. To me, it’s one that’s high in juice content (you might think it’s obvious that cider is made from apples, but some commercial brands contain as little as 35 per cent apple juice.) It’s one that’s probably not made from apple juice concentrate, and is made by someone who has been thoughtful about different apple varieties, their individual characteristics and how they can be blended for a pleasing whole.
Hallets’ is one of those perfect ciders that has flavour, depth and complexity, and yet at the same time is ridiculously refreshing and drinkable. There’s nothing better when it gets light and warm enough to sit out in the garden at the end of a long day.
What’s your latest discovery?
I’ve been delighted to see some British cider makers starting to look at other cider making traditions—not many people know that the French and Spanish, for example, also make cider that’s quite different from ours. Hogan’s Cider has just launched a new ‘innovation range’ that includes a French-style ‘keeved’ cider, which is naturally sweet, and a sharp, sour cider which I’m pretty sure must have been inspired by Basque and Asturian sidras. The English cider-making tradition is the best in the world, but we shouldn’t think of it as being set in stone—cider, like all drinks, evolves over time.
What drink would you save for a special occasion?
That would be Tom Oliver’s Fine Dry Perry. Perry is cider’s cousin, made from rare, special varieties of perry pears—it’s quite different from pear-flavoured cider. Tom is the best perry maker in the world, farming and collecting rare trees in Herefordshire, which is perry’s traditional heartland. His perry is like fine champagne; refined and delicate, but fuller with a hint of earthiness. I drink perry when other people would drink champagne—in fact, Herefordshire perry-makers invented the so-called methode champenoise 100 years before Dom Perignon perfected it.
Who would you share it with?
My wife, Liz. She’s my biggest fan and sternest critic of my writing, and she has a refreshingly straightforward and open mind about any bottles I bring home. She doesn’t want to hear anything about where it’s from or who made it or what style it is; she just tastes it and says, “That’s horrid,” and hands it back, or “Yeah I like that,” and takes the bottle from me. And she loves a good perry.
Favourite match with food?
The best kept secret on food and drink matching is cider and cheese. With the best matches, it’s a terroir thing: there are parts of Somerset where there’s a cider apple orchard on one side of a hedgerow, and the cows whose milk goes to make Montgomery cheddar on the other side. Cheese and cider come from the same earth, and when you bring them back together the flavours interweave and build and make you glad to be alive.
All ciders are available at The Cider House
Pete Brown’s The Apple Orchard, published by Penguin, is out in paperback 6th April