General notes on 2018
2018 was an exceptionally hot and dry year, with a protracted drought lasting from late spring through until August, when there was just enough rain to keep everything growing until harvest. Sugar levels across the board were high, in some cases extremely high, and crops were good too. In some varieties tannin levels were very high and in the case of Ashton Brown Jersey and Chisel Jersey, the tannin was very hard and woody. As our first season of 'full time' cider making it was a big learning experience for us, jumping from 800 litres in 2017 to about 6,500 in 2018. Ciders were very slow to ferment, which we again would put down to the hot summer, perhaps affecting the apple's nitrogen levels. For the most part we are pleased with the results of the fermentations and currently have two ciders on release.
Stoke Red 2018
Single variety Stoke Red from a single orchard, this is a pure expression of variety, of the season and of the orchard. Fermented extremely slowly, racking twice over the winter the fermentation slowed to an imperceptible pace before bottling in late August. A slight bit of fermentation has continued in the bottle to keep it fresh but essentially this is still, lusciously sweet cider with exceptional balance of sugar, tannin and acid. Displaying typical Stoke Red aromas of rose, strawberries and cream, the old trees in Abbot's Leigh have given impressive fullness of aroma and ripeness of tannin. Drink with soft, fresh cheeses at room temperature, or chill and drink with apple based puddings.
Ditcheat Hill 2018
We wanted to reimagine the single orchard cider not as a 'field blend' where everything goes into the one tank, but 'orchard selections' where a one tank blend is made up using the best fruit from the orchard in proportions which seem to make sense for balance while reflecting the identity of the orchard. We used Browns (40%) for acidity, Harry Masters (25%) as the principle bitter sweet with Red Jersey(7%), Ashton Brown's Jersey(7%) and Yarlington Mill (5%) in supporting roles, and Sweet Coppin (7%) as a sweet to add aroma and keep tannin levels appropriate. The result is full bodied and complex, a voluptuous and well balanced expression of Somerset cider and a reflection of what we think is extraordinary terroir.