Harvest 2023 - View From The Cidery Doors
A year where early warmth followed by prolific rain before a joyous September is making for an interesting vintage
"As I write", says James Forbes, "we stand on the threshold of harvest 2023, with nearly 20 tonnes of fruit – a mixture of apples, perry pears and quince – arriving in the coming week!
"How are things looking? For apples, the trees in Herefordshire are pretty laden. Even our extremely biennial Foxwhelp trees in the Home Orchard gave us 750 kg, with more lost to the birds at the top of the big trees!
"For Ellis Bitter and Dabinett, our Home Orchard will provide around seven tonnes this year – a record. Add to that, maybe a tonne of Harry Masters Jersey, if they can be bothered to stay on the trees to ripen this year. Always the divas!
"Perry pears have begun to arrive. The early varieties that we get from one specific orchard were badly affected by a pest called pear midge, the larvae of the gall midge that develop in the fruitlets, consuming them from the inside until they turn black and drop. Nasty critters and difficult to control without sprays.
"The later varieties though seem less affected and we are looking forward to receiving a lot of lovely fruit, assuming we can persuade the orchardists not to pick too early!
Beyond apples and pears
"We started the season back in July with 330kg of sour cherries arriving. To be honest, they had been left too long on the trees, so a five-hour stint on the sorting table going through them was needed. In the end the effort was worth it and we filled a small stainless steel tank with about 270 kg of super ripe, gleaming cherries, leaving them to ferment uncrushed for four weeks. Ultimately these could well be destined for a future iteration of To Boldly Go... time will tell.
"The same fate awaited damsons, about 260 kg gathered both by Dave the Damson, and ourselves from an ancient orchard on top of the hill behind our home. These have only just been crushed, along with some beautiful perry pears.
"In between these two we received our first apples – Discovery – sadly a little less than anticipated, but enough when blended with a little Foxwhelp, to continue our Disco Nouveau project to the tune of 900 bottles and 49 kegs! Look out for its release in late November, fingers' crossed.
All to play for
"The amazing weather at flowering time and the early summer heat has resulted in big crops for many varieties. July and much of August were pretty wet and cool while the arrival of September brought some much needed sun. Now, as we begin October, it feels unseasonably warm. So it’s all to play for with the later bittersweets but so far sugars are around 10% down on last year and flavours and aromas feel less concentrated than in drier, warmer years previously.
"That’s just a short insight into where we are now. We'll return with another update as we get further into harvest. In the meantime, do join with us on socials, for impromptu snapshots of the action as it arises."
James Forbes, 4 October 2023