One year to 18 months – that’s how long it takes for a Mortimer’s Orchard cider to be shaken from the tree and land in your glass. We spoke to Guy Lawrence, fifth generation Westons family cider-maker, to discover a bit more about making, the tasting, and the Henry Weston heritage.
And yes, apples actually do fall from the tree at Mortimer’s Orchard, all of the apples in the organic orchards are shaken from the tree in the traditional fashion. In fact, not a whole lot has changed since the original Henry Weston planted his feet firmly on a plot of land in the shadow of Marcle Ridge near the little village of Much Marcle in Herefordshire, in 1880.
How did Henry Weston like his cider?
The Bounds Farmhouse, a stone’s throw from the orchards, is the home of Guy’s mum and managing director Helen Thomas, whose brother is the current Henry Weston. That’s very quaint and everything, I hear you say, but get to the cider already! But its more than just the name that has been passed down the generations. The famous 8.2% ABV bottled Henry Weston Vintage cider is “Still made Henry’s way, just because…” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Once the apple juice has been milled, pressed, and fermented, it’s slowly aged in 200-year-old oak vats, to produce a full bodied cider. And a lethal one at that.
Mortimer’s Orchard premium, medium-dry cider with its light sparkling finish (5% ABV) doesn’t fall far from the tree either (pun intended, I’m not even sorry) as it’s made from the very same base line as the black top Henry Westons Vintage.
It’s all about the tannins…
What really stands out about Mortimer’s Orchard is the lack of lingering aftertaste that so many mid-range ciders can’t help but achieve nowadays.
Tannins, Guy explains, is the culprit, and Mortimer’s Orchard steers clear in that regard, it’s got a high juice content and is made from a pretty good blend of apples, resulting in a rich, full-bodied flavour. It helps that the cider is created using three types of apples: a third from sweet apples, a third from bittersweet, and a third from sharp apples.
“Single varieties are bland.” Guy states, it’s plain and simple.
And Guy should know, he’s been tasting the stuff since he was a wee three-year-old child frolicking about the farm. He understands, and can described at length and in scientific detail, every aspect of the milling, pressing, fermenting, maturation and (of course) the tasting process. He tastes them all; and they produce over 60 million litres of cider per year. Dream. Job. Sigh.
It’s no surprise that, even after travelling to New Zealand to spread his wings and learn about the cider-making business elsewhere, that Guy was drawn back to his roots (even though he tried to do anything but).
It was a standard case of fleeing the nest and trying something new, exciting, and different, without realising that what was exciting and different was right under his nose. The Westons are steeped in tradition, but they keep up with the times, too. Take their outdoor Silent Disco Bar at Taste of London this June, with people flocking to sip a cool, refreshing cider and dance the summer night away.
Then there’s the new bag-in-a-box flavoured ciders hitting us this summer (available online) with Old Rosie versions including rhubarb, elderflower (yes please) and cloudy lemonade. And look out for the tip top mulled cider this winter.
So what’s the best food pairing?
All that’s left is to ask the man in the know the best food to pair with Mortimer’s Orchard cider; after all, a good cider turns into a great one if it finds its perfect accompaniment.
“I have it with my roast pork dinner,” says Guy. “You can’t go wrong. Oh, and a juicy burger, too. And for dessert, pick up a soft cheese, blue is great, as the creaminess cuts through any acidity.”
It’s fair to say we’re a little bit blown away by the Weston clan and their modern twist on serving up a good old-fashioned cider – and Mortimer’s Orchard draft is no exception.
Maybe it’s all the bubbles.
You can find Mortimer’s Orchard Cider at pubs across London. But here are a few to get you started…
Argyll Arms, W1F 7TP, tube: Oxford Circus
Freemasons Arms, NW3 1NT, tube: Hampstead
Globe, EC2M 7SA, tube: Moorgate
Old Thameside Inn, SE1 9DG, tube: Clink Street
The Falcon, SW11 1RU, tube: Clapham Junction
White Lion, WC2E 8NS, tube: Covent Garden
Find out more at: mortimersorchard.co.uk