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31st May, 2019

The Fruiterers Trophy for the Supreme Champion British Cider went to a bottled still dry cider produced by Rob Whale of Southdown Cider, from Shepton Montague near Burton.

The reserve supreme champion and winner of the Pewterers’ Trophy for Champion Farmhouse Cider was Chris Hecks, who now operates on a small-scale separately from the well-known Hecks family business at Street, with a dry farmhouse cider.

Rob Whale only started making cider some four years ago, and makes no more than around 1500 litres a year from traditional varieties of cider apples, harvested from small orchards in and around the village.

He confessed himself “stunned” at coming out on top in an entry of almost 500 ciders from all parts of England and Wales.  “We had four ciders entered in the classes on Wednesday and they came nowhere, so my expectations were fairly low, even though I knew that the bottled dry was a pretty good cider.

“I’m strictly a part-time cider-maker so I’m not sure what winning this award will mean for our business.  Maybe I’ll buy a machine for picking up the apples, or invest in a better press, because at present all the work is done by hand.  But it will certainly mean that, to quote our motto as a cider business, we’ll be able to bring even more Somerset orchards back to life.”

The Chairman of the judges, Nick Bradstock, described Rob’s winning cider as “just about the perfect bittersweet cider”.

“The standard of the entries in the Championships gets higher every year, so that picking a winner gets harder every year as there is so little to choose between the top dozen or so ciders, but this year’s winner is outstanding.”

Chris Hecks operates on an even smaller scale than Rob Whale, making no more than 700 litres.  His full-time job is as orchard manager for Bob and Bridget Wadey’s 165 acres of cider orchards near Shepton Mallet. 

“We mixed 30 litres of our farmhouse sweet with 30 litres of our dry to produce the winning cider”, he explained.  “When I tasted the result, I was pretty confident we would win something, but to win the Farmhouse Trophy and to come second overall is a wonderful accolade, not just for our cider, but for farmhouse cider generally”.

The other trophy winners in this year’s British Cider Championships were as follows:

  • Silver Medal for best commercial bush orchard:  Rupert Best, Melplash Dorset
  • Silver Medal for best commercial standard orchard:  Emily Estates, Castle Cary
  • Silver Medal for best not for profit orchard:  Wady’s Cider, Catcott near Bridgwater
  • Silver Medal for orchard innovation: Sidney Dixon of East Lambrook
  • Westons Cider Cup for best wood-aged cider:  Sheppys Cider, Bradford on Tone
  • Arthur Davies Cup for best single variety bottled cider:  Perry’s Cider, Dowlish Wake
  • Vigo Presses Cider Newcomer Award:  Alistair Smith, of Nottingham
  • British Champion Perry:  Oliver’s Cider and Perry, Ocle Pychard, Hereford
  • Vigo Trophy for British Champion Apple Juice:  Burrow Hill Cider, Kingsbury Episcopi

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