Sanford Orchards Cider

Sanford Orchards in Devon is really at the forefront of the “proper” cider revolution in the UK. Their flagship Devon Red and Devon Scrumpy grace the bar in many a crafty booze boozer and deservedly so. I got a hold of a trio of some of the other bottled ciders in their multi award winning range.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 08.55.45More commercial style Shaky Bridge (6% abv) is a medium sweet sparkling cider that actually tastes like it’s made from real apples as opposed to syrup. Crisp apple, some apple blossom, very clean and refreshing.


Old Kirkton (6% abv) is as unique a cider as I have ever tasted. There’s aromas of raspberry, farmyard and grassy herbs. The palate hints at stewed strawberries, moving into cooked Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 08.55.08apple and ultra dry green apple skin finish. lovely but retaining some on the finish. I love the texture that the hay pressing gives it: creamy and almost milky. Definitely one for the connoisseur.


Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 08.55.22Very complex and layered their 2007 Vintage Cider (7% abv) is aged in rum barrels for a minimum of 18 months. I got aromas of: fine grained oak, subtle burnt sugar, underpinned with late autumn orchard. Tasting it, first I feel the grip of those wood tannins, but there is some fresh acidity (impressive for a 7 year old cider). Next is mature, mellow, caramelised warm fruit and on the finish: earthy mushroom and some toasted nuttiness as well. Perfect match for rind washed creamy cheeses or roast meats. I find it so amazing to see how well good cider does age, it evolves just like a fine wine.

Cider is the fastest growing category in the drinks sector. The range, complexity and quality of Sanford Orchards (and others) must surely have something to do with it.

To order and find stockists drop them an email.

Pilton Cider

I picked up a bottle of Pilton Cider at a food fair in Exeter early this year but only finally got around to tasting it this week. I wish I hadn’t waited so long!

Made in the noble 450 year old but not often used method of keeving, where the milled apple pulp and juice are allowed to macerate (stand) for up to 24hrs, places Pilton in my opinion firmly at the vanguard of premium UK cider production. Over the winter when the wild yeasts are doing their work, this humble apple juice pressed from 88 different varieties transforms into the sort of aperitif that other “aperitifs” wish they could be. It’s hard to believe that it’s only 5.5% abv yet packs so many layers of flavour. Pilton simply leaves most other ciders I’ve tried out in the cold.

It’s a lovely amber gold, and when I poured into the glass, a foam of what appeared to be a dense meringue frothed up. Never have I seen such luxuriant bubbles on a head of cider! On the nose those vagabond yeasts are still frolicking merrily in the hayloft, while earthy woody mushrooms sprout in the beams. On the palate it’s refreshing apple resonance is clear, yet it is transformed, evolved into a beverage that literally pulses with charm, depth and character. You get mature apple, earthy woodiness and subtle spicy floral notes. Its texture is creamy yet fresh and all the while your mouth is tickled by those ever present bubbles.

Pressed in 2012 bottled in 2013, the smart spare packaging with the classic cork and wire cage exude class and refinement. In my humble opinion owner Martin Berkeley is producing a cider of the complexity, dryness and balance that truly competes with quality sparkling wine. No small feat.

As I said this is the perfect aperitif, alone or with nibbles of the nutty or cheesy persuasion. But really this stuff is so fine you could carry it through a whole meal. Grilled pork, roast chicken, fish and chips but onto to dessert as well in the form of tarte tatin, bread and butter pudding or good stinky cheeses.

A 75cl bottle  is about £8 and available from various retailers but can also be bought direct (6 bottle minimum) and is UK shipped for free!

I cannot recommend Pilton highly enough and most certainly will be stocking on up on some. I suggest you do the same…



The Stable Bristol


The Stable is exactly the kind of place I wish I had as my local. Sadly I don’t but had the great pleasure of eating & drinking at their Bristol encampment on a glorious weekend this past July. Bristol is a great party town, and with all that warm sunshine Harbourside was rammed. We managed to grab an outside table which meant we had front row seats to the circus. The Canon’s Road wooden promenade was coursing with people from all walks life in search of a good time, and I pretty felt smug because I had found it at the Stable. Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.56.05

Pizza-Pies-Cider is their simple motto and man do they deliver. I shared The Lamb Roast & Fresh Hawaiian with a pal and Hey Zeus they both were delicious! Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.42.40So well made is the thin wispy crispy crust and so well conceived are the selection of toppings that every bite was a symphony.

It’s no wonder, as they focus on sourcing the best fresh local ingredients like smoked ham, marinated lamb and goats cheese. I was too full to try any of the pies but can imagine they are just as good.

It being the West Country the spotlight on cider is no mystery, and it’s an impressive line up with more than 20 on the go at any one time. I opted for a mix stick(5 x 1/3) but honestly don’t recall what they all were, though some I enjoyed more than others. Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.42.26The tab was quite reasonable as you would expect with most pizzas around £10-12 and a pint of cider less than £4. The Stable Bristol is one of 4 Stables currently operating with other locations in Bridport, Weymouth & Bath tragically though we don’t have anScreen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.54.57y as yet in London.Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.54.30

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Sanford Orchards “Fanny’s Bramble” Cider

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 16.02.35I am becoming a real fan of cider these days. For my palate it fits somewhere between the refreshment of beer and the complexity of wine. So much more to learn though…

Sanford Orchards make some lovely cider and while this Fanny’s Bramble is very much an attempt to woo converts to the cult of Swedish “fruit” ciders it remains true to it’s roots, a product produced honestly from apples & fresh blackberries picked from the hedgerows near their orchards in Devon. It is 4%abv & my thoughts were…

Eye – Iron Bru Red

Nose – Fragrant blackberry liqueur

Palate – Tart, generous, supple, bright red apple with a sharp cassis finish

Verdict – Not trying to be something serious but altogether pleasing & refreshing.  “Like biting into an apple soaked in Ribena”

Fanny’s Bramble is available direct as well as online from The Real Ale Company & Tilia