Often misunderstood and overlooked, here’s why pear cider could be your new-season drink…
Hands up if you remember drinking Babycham back in the day? You may be cringing even thinking about it but this sweet, sparkling pear champagne, created by a cider producer in Shepton Mallet in 1953, was a revolution at the time. Now, I’m not about to tell you that the party drink of the 80s is about to have a relaunch, but pear cider, now that’s another matter.
If you thought perry was just Kevin’s sidekick who had a teenage crush on older women, think again! Perry is fast becoming the new drink on the block with the best cider producers in the Cotswolds adding it to their cider production. The UK’s perry heartland lies in the three counties of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, recognised by Slow Food as a ‘Presidia’, drawing attention to the area’s native breeds and local plant varieties. As suggested by the Slow Food interest, perry pear orchards are painstakingly slow to mature – taking up to 20 years to develop – and good ones are notoriously difficult to come by.
That’s why creating perry is more like creating fine wine rather than cider. The flavours are remarkably varied, depending on pear variety, the sweetness of the crop and whether the perry is sparkling or still, filtered or not.
Often dubbed England’s native wine, perry can have many guises, making it extremely versatile. Try serving sparkling perry as an alternative to prosecco, or still perry as a lighter alternative to cider or wine. It is a great drink to serve with those difficult-to-match foods – it works well with goat’s cheese or as an accompaniment to strong cheeses on the after dinner cheese board, and even complements more delicate dishes such as white fish and scallops.
Perry may still have some way to go before it becomes the new Babycham, but with the best perry-makers literally lining our doorstep, we can all help create a bit of a buzz around this forgotten-about local drink. Here are some of the best perries in the area for you to seek out and try:
Hogans Classic Sparkling Perry
This refreshing perry was a trophy winner at the International Cider Challenge 2020 and won first at the National Fruit Awards 2020. With a floral nose and a delicate, slight sweetness, it is delightfully light and smooth with a wine-like complexity. Hogan’s also produce a cloudy perry, The Lonely Partridge, that has a fruity, gentle sweetness with a more earthy undertone.
With their ongoing commitment to protecting ancient orchards and the wildlife it supports, perry-making is an important ancient tradition at Day’s Cottage Farm. The perry is made from unsprayed pears using old varieties such as Brown Bess and Blakeney Red pears.
Refined and delicate with fruity flavours, this complex perry is made from a blend of pears from local orchards. Pears in this blend include Thorn, Judge Amphlett, Moorcroft (aka Stinking Bishop), Butt and Blakeney Red.
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