Christmas dinner and cider competition

For the second year, we held our Christmas dinner and cider competion at the Barista in Wigton.

Each year, the North Cumbria Orchard Group hold a Christmas Dinner to mark the end and of the apple year. This year’s event was held at the Barista restaurant in Wigton on Thus 14th Dec with 25 members attending. The event was very successful – possibly indicated by the number of bottles and glasses on the table!

Those attending the dinner were entered into a free draw for 10 Litres of the Cider Group’s 2023 vintage. This was won by Alexander who seemed very pleased with his prize!

A cider competition is normally held at the end of the dinner to gauge the quality of the cider produced in the region – with a few commercial brands thrown in to provide a comparison. There was a great addition to the competition this year with the introduction of a prize for the winner of an inscribed tankard donated by Eileen Rees in memory of Ronald Graham (last year's winner). The results are shown in the attached document.

The competition was technically won by an oak-aged commercial craft cider, but was closely followed among the members' entries by Mark Evens's limited edition keeved Dabinett, which therefore won the Ronald Graham cup.

So what do the results tell us? Any lessons to be learnt?

  1. Mark entered two identical ciders – but prepared in two different ways. The best of the two, and the overall winner among the members' entries, was prepared by keeving. The definition of keeving according is :-

“'Keeving' is a way of making the ultimate style of naturally sweet sparkling cider. This is traditional both in Western England and the northwest of France, but whereas it has virtually died out as a commercial proposition in the UK, it is still very much alive for the production of ‘cidre bouché’ in France. The underlying principle is to remove nutrients from the juice by complexation with pectin at an early stage, to ensure a long slow fermentation which finishes and can be bottled while still sweet and without any fear of excessive re-fermentation later.”

So perhaps NCOG members should consider this method for next year. If so, look up 'keeving kit' on the internet

  1. Cider doesn’t seem to age well. It’s not like wine where it matures over the time. So the Vintage Annie Elizabeth which won last year and the Covid Cider (2022) both dropped down in the scoring. (Mark disagrees - it is largely a matter of taste - last year's winner was not fully fermented and therefore slightly sweet - see the point below)
  2. There seems to be a definite preference towards sweetness. The Keeved, Pear Cider, & Holly Cottage apple juice (alcohol-free cider!) all scored in the upper half of the table.
  3. The Asda offering still held up in the scoring – with some giving it high scores. Perhaps the artificial sweeteners used attracts some people (see point 3 above) although others described it as chemical and nasty.
  4. Would it be worth trying try to get hold of an oak barrel to mature some of our cider? Is this really what Sheppy do?

Report by John Nutley; Tuesday, 16 January 2024