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Survey of Cider Producers

Survey of Cider producers conducted by Kevin Croucher of Thornhayes Nursery, summer 2010.

Enthusiasm for orchard planting in general and in many cases people wishing to be small or medium scale cider and juice producers appears not to be diminishing. In view of this and as an aid to both myself as a producer of apple trees and my potential customers, I felt a little research was in order. The process and results are explained here.

In early summer 2010 I formulated a list of over 40 cider producers in the south west who could be considered to produce a quality product from fruit on a small to medium scale. I deliberately avoided the three “big boys” in the industry and anyone who used concentrate. This list was put together with the aid of James Crowden’s award winning book “Ciderland”. These people were sent a survey sheet asking them to nominate their personal top 3 to 5 cider apple varieties, any varieties to avoid and the reasons for their choices. They were also asked to provide brief details of their soil type, elevation and rainfall. A copy of the full results would also be sent to them in return for their taking part.

Initial response was a bit disappointing, but eventually I got thirteen surveys returned; many with apologies for lack office efficiency. A response of over 30%, so not bad really.

The results were interesting in their predictability. Some people were unable to give us accurate information about varieties as their orchards were mixed varieties and were not picked separately. The top varieties were not surprising. Nor is the confirmation that varietal performance is totally dependant on site conditions. What is a great variety in south east Somerset, may be a no goer in north-west Devon. Equally, characteristics that are attractive to some people are seen as a drawback to others; Michelin being the main candidate here.

If anyone who didn’t take part in the original survey feels they would like to contribute to what can be an ongoing project please get in touch. The results are laid out below in what I hope is a logical and user friendly form.

Analysis of Cider Apple Survey

Most Popular varieties:

  1. Dabinett (7 nominations)
  2. Kingston Black (5 nominations)
  3. Yarlington Mill (5 nominations)
  4. Harry Masters Jersey (4 nominations)
  5. Browns (3 nominations)
  6. Somerset Redstreak (3 nominations)
  7. Michelin (3 nominations)
  8. Ashton Bitter (2 nominations)
  9. Tom Putt (2 nominations)
  10. Chisel Jersey (2 nominations)
  11. Tremlett's Bitter (2 nominations)
  12. Coat Jersey (2 nominations)
  13. Morgan Sweet (2 nominations)
  14. Ellis' Bitter (1 nomination)

Varieties to be avoided:

  1. Michelin (3 nominations)
  2. Yarlington Mill (2 nominations)
  3. Browns (2 nominations)
  4. Morgan Sweet (1 nomination)
  5. Tom Putt (1 nomination)
  6. Red Forwhelp (1 nomination)
  7. Kingston Black (1 nomination)
  8. Bulmer's Norman (1 nomination)
  9. Stoke Red (1 nomination)
  10. Le Bret (1 nomination)
  11. Ellis' Bitter (1 nomination)
  12. Kingston Black (1 nomination)
  13. Nehou (1 nomination)
  14. Major (1 nomination)
  15. Ashton Bitter (1 nomination)
  16. Bramley (1 nomination)

Comments on Cider Apple Varieties

Ashmead’s Kernel

  • High quality juice. Useful late sharp. Grows well on chalk East Dorset

Ashton Bitter

  • Useful early Exeter area
  • High yields and generally disease free West Devon
  • Too much astringency for small producers N Somerset

Brown’s

  • Colour and taste of juice/cider good. Reasonable cropper S Somerset
  • Quality light cider. South Devon
  • Acidity, yield, manageability, produces character Taunton area
  • Poor crop West Devon
  • Very scab prone in the Blackdowns Blackdown Hills

Bulmer’s Normam

  • Yield, produces good general juice for volume Taunton area
  • Bulk apple, produces low quality cider Taunton area

Brown Snout

  • High yields and generally disease free West Devon

Chisel Jersey

  • Good for blending N Somerset
  • Healthy regular cropper Blackdown Hills

Dabinett

  • Good Bittersweet character. Exeter area
  • Excellent flavour and body. N Somerset
  • Excellent bittersweet, good cropper. East Dorset
  • Unique single variety cider South Devon
  • Healthy regular cropper Blackdown Hills
  • Yield, manageability, quality, produces character Taunton area
  • Good single variety or for blending N Devon

Dunkerton’s late Sweet

  • Local and good for quality cider. South Somerset

Ellis’ Bitter

  • Good bittersweet character. Exeter area
  • Poor crop West Devon

Falstaff/Jonagold

  • Cull apples lighten the traditional tannin taste, which is the modern preference Taunton area

Harry Master’s Jersey

  • Good all round traditional variety S Somerset
  • Good for blending. N Somerset
  • Excellent bittersweet, good cropper East Dorset

Kingston Black

  • Name, taste and grows well. Good for juice and cider. S Somerset
  • Crops well on my soil East Dorset
  • Produces good cider Taunton area
  • Does surprisingly well in the Blackdowns Blackdown Hills
  • Good single variety or for blending N Devon
  • Disease West Devon
  • Unless you are an expert South Devon

Le Bret

  • Prone to scab. Poor crop East Dorset

Major

  • Too much astringency for small producers N Somerset
  • High yields and generally disease free West Devon

Michelin

  • Produces good cider Taunton area
  • Good bulker South Devon
  • Yield, produces good general juice for volume Taunton area
  • Very bland juice. Difficult to press when soft. Exeter area
  • Purely a bulker for industry. N Somerset
  • About as interesting as a tax seminar Mid Devon

Morgan Sweet

  • Useful early Exeter area
  • Early – Single variety N Devon

Nehou

  • Useful early Exeter area
  • Rots too quickly to be of use N Somerset

Porter’s Perfection

  • High quality juice. Useful late sharp East Dorset

Red Foxwhelp

  • Too early, prone to rot Taunton area

Somerset Redstreak

  • Good all round N Somerset
  • Amazing crop every year. Useful early East Dorset
  • Produces good cider Taunton area

Stoke Red

  • Totally biennial East Dorset

Tom Putt

  • Good general purpose sharp mixer. Exeter area
  • Amazing crop every year. Useful early. East Dorset
  • Not fond of dual purpose apples Taunton area

Tremlett’s Bitter

  • Good bittersweet character Exeter area

Yarlington Mill

  • A little astringent N Somerset
  • Produces good cider Taunton area
  • Yield, manageability, produces character Taunton area
  • Good single variety or for blending N Devon
  • Poor growth. Does not crop well on chalk East Dorset
  • Very scab prone in the Blackdowns Blackdown Hills

Other comments

  • Old local or once popular variety doesn’t necessarily make it a good one and an excuse to plant it
  • Performance of trees is partly down to the quality of the stock supplied by the nursery in the first place.
  • We have an unusual soil and are quite high up
  • Our orchards are all mixed, so it is not possible to trace any batches back to particular varieties

Site conditions for the various sites

South Devon
Heavy red soil. 180ft asl.
West Devon
Grade 3 soil. High rainfall. 630ft asl.
Exeter area
Variable soils. Below 100ft asl.
Crediton area
Sandy loam.
Taunton area
Medium to heavy loam. 800 mmrain. 100ft asl.
South Somerset
Clay to heavy loam. 200ft asl.
Blackdown Hills
Clay loam with chert. 1200mm rain. 150m asl.
East Dorset
Thin loam over chalk. 700ft asl.