Secret Orchard Cider, a small-scale craft producer run by two childhood friends, has beaten off hundreds of entries to win a Gold Medal at The British Cider Championships – the biggest cider competition in the world.
As well as Best Medium Cider, the entry was also named Reserve Champion, narrowly missing out on the Supreme Champion ‘winner of winners’ award which went to a keeved cider from Dorset.
Secret Orchard Co-Founders Joe Heley and Todd Studley were overjoyed with their two awards – a great achievement for an artisan operation where each apple is picked and pressed by the entrepreneurs themselves, with help from friends and family.
Joe commented: “We may be newcomers to cider-making, but we are very traditional in our approach, using 100% juice, wild yeasts and no sulphites, and relying on careful blending to get the final taste just right.”
Todd added: “We won Silver in the same competition last year, so to achieve Gold and Reserve Champion this year is incredibly rewarding. All that tough work during harvest time has paid off!”
The duo were awarded their accolades at the prestigious annual competition, which took place at The Bath and West Show this month.
Judges included Helen Thomas, Chairman of the National Association of Cider-Makers, Nick Bradstock, the eminent cider consultant, and Denis Surgeon – Master of the Worshipful company of Fruiterers.
Todd and Joe, who both grew up in Minehead on the edge of Exmoor, have been making cider at Nettlecombe Court for five years; fruit from the historic estate is supplemented by other small local orchards and production has increased gradually each year.
Joe said: “Making cider in this traditional way has taken us to some beautiful orchards. Hidden away down farm tracks or behind high garden walls, Somerset has a wealth of small orchards planted with prime cider varieties – many of which had fallen out of use until we came along. No chemicals are used and biodiversity is extremely high in our secret orchards – something which is really important to us.”
In 2016 Secret Orchard expanded their operation to Cornwall, sourcing apples from orchards near Penzance; the first batch of ciders using Cornish juice was extremely successful and the second vintage will be released next year.