Cider makers and specialist retailers across the South West have claimed a resounding success for the first South West Cider Week to celebrate the oldest drink produced in the UK.
Though it was ingenuity and technology rather than heritage that meant drinkers in their thousands enjoyed 30 events across ten days even with the continued absence of gatherings.
The packed programme kicked-off on Friday 12 June and culminated with a virtual ‘Wassail’ to mark the Summer Solstice on Sunday, 21 June.
Producers have reported increased online sales and extra visitors to farm shops. One advised that sales of their ciders featured during events had offset lost sales to pubs and bars for the month.
Another producer reported they had secured a new route to market and been contacted to ‘foster’ two orchards extending their reach and increasing the positive impact they have on the landscape.
Online tastings and events
Novice cider drinkers and serious aficionados alike enjoyed online tastings, virtual tours, a cyber meet and greet, food matching and mixology via social media and even a real-life drive through cider shop followed by an orchard walk.
Organiser Martin Berkeley said: “Whilst the region is known for fantastic food and drink, it is cider that is our greatest gift to people around the World that seek out quality drinks to enjoy.
“So it is a surprise that something like this has not happened before – maybe the fact that people haven’t been able to gather to enjoy a glass of cider was the extra motivation we needed to celebrate something we are so proud of.
“The response has seriously exceeded our expectations whether it was the flow of people at the ‘drive through’ cider shop or people from around the World that enjoyed online tastings.
Imagination and resourcefulness
“I pay tremendous tribute to the imagination and resourcefulness of cider makers who have found so many fantastic ways to demonstrate the breadth of styles, the quality that exists and the many great food matches possible.”
Renowned for cider
It is not by chance that the South West is globally renowned for cider production. The combination of the landscape, soil and weather mean that apple orchards flourish in the region – especially those planted with the bittersweet fruit varieties that are so highly prized by producers.
It is also a region noted for producing much of the innovation that has advanced orchard management and enabled new styles of cider to be developed or rediscovered – like the artisan approach of keeving ciders that are increasing in popularity.
The dozens of events that made up the South West Cider Week were coordinated by the South West of England Cidermakers’ Association (SWECA).
As well as showcasing the skills of cider makers the events were intended to provide a much-needed boost to producers given lost sales through pubs and bars and the absence of tourism this summer.
This commercial consideration was a key driver for the Cider Week.
To amplify this effort several specialist retailers offered discounts for online sales and put together mixed cases that reflect the great breath of quality drinks produced across the region.
The body representing the UK cider industry – the biggest cider market in the world – was delighted with the celebration of this popular drink.
For the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM), Mark Hopper said: “Cider makers rely on sales through pubs and bars, and for producers in the South West the many summer festivals and events are also a key market as is tourism more generally.
“That lost income is a real dent in the finances of businesses that do so much to sustain rural investment and employment.
“So to see the amazing response from people worldwide to this very diverse range of events has been heartening and demonstrates that when people have the chance to consider cider they really enjoy the quality and versatility on offer.”
Martin Berkeley added: “It’s been busy though fantastic fun. No question we will be back next year, bigger and better!”