Herefordshire is more famed for its ciders than Gwent, but PAUL CAREY talked to one woman who is creating cider and perry from her orchard near Usk.
WHEN summer arrives and the sun is shining, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as tasting the first drop of a refreshing glass of cider or perry.
But when looking for the perfect one, searching out locally produced refreshment will often leave you more satisfied.
One of the best in Gwent comes from Three Saints Cider and Perry, made on a Monmouthshire farm by Jessica Deathe.
Miss Deathe started the business in 2004 and uses 100 per cent juice, often from unique Welsh perry pear and cider apple varieties that produces a local, artisan perry or cider with individual characteristics and flavours that she feels are “lost” in mass produced equivalents.
Three Saints produce a range of single varietal and blended perries and ciders ranging from dry to medium sweet.
The company produces nine versions of perry – with the most popular by far being Laughing Juice which is made from a blend of pear juices.
Three of the other most popular ones are the Three Saints Nice Boys Medium Perry which is 3.5 per cent ABV and made from pears picked from the farm’s vast pear tree.
Three Saints Divine Medium Sweet Perry is a single variety perry with an ABV of 5.3 per cent and the other best seller is the Blush Sweet Perry which is made using Blakeney Red pears. It is sweet with an ABV of 4.3 per cent and would make for a perfect summer afternoon drink.
There are four ciders made which are a mixture of types. The most popular is called scrum, which is a sweet cider. There is also a dry cider that is titled ‘A bit of rough’ and a St Crispin’s cider that sells well at festivals.
“I tend to sell everything at festivals and other big events rather than supermarkets,” said Miss Deacon. “The majority of what I sell is on draught rather than bottles.
“I started as there’s an ancient perry orchard on my farm in Monmouthshire which is very rare. I’ve been doing it since 2004 but it’s a just a part-time job rather than a full-time business.
“I like to change the apples and mix it around to try and create different flavours and varieties which is the beauty of it.
“We’ve got nine perrys and four ciders so there’s a lot of variety and it allows you to offer something different.”
Unlike with lager, cider can’t be made throughout the year and has to be produced when the fruit is at it's finest point.
“Perry and cider is best when the fruit is ripe,” added Miss Deacon. “This normally happens for around two months every year during autumn.
“Taking advantage of when the fruit is ripe is important as it adds to the flavour. You need to press the apples for the juice, put it in a container and let it ferment.”
Miss Deacon has also recently started branching out into making an array of vinegars that she hopes she will be able to sell in the near future – with interest from afar.
“I started to make vinegars a short while ago,” she added. “Japan is very keen on vinegars and I’m hoping to get mine out there soon as there is some interest in it.”
However, away from vinegars and focusing on cider and perry, Miss Deacon is making a name for herself in Gwent with her variety of flavours and strengths.
With 100 per cent of the juice picked when ripe from her farm, it adds to the quality that can often be missing when mass produced.
If you’re at a festival or big event this year and you see the Three Saints label, the decision to purchase could be sweeter than the scrum cider you'll end up drinking.