Posted 18th Feb 2016
The much-anticipated LandLove Awards have been handed out and we're celebrating our countryside champions, as voted for by you, by chatting to some of the winners
Today we're talking to Ampleforth Abbey Cider, winner of Britain's favourite drinks producer. Initially starting over 200 years ago, when Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey were growing apples, the tradition has withstood the test of time with the award-winning handmade ciders remaining as popular as ever.
Congratulations on winning Britain's favourite drink's producer! What makes Ampleforth Abbey Cider Britain's drink of choice?
Our Traditional Cider is made from a blend of dessert and culinary apples which results in a medium/dry cider. It is light in body with good fruit and acid balance, meaning it’s a very refreshing ‘anytime’ drink. Our customers also really like the fact that it’s a ‘full juice’ cider, meaning that it’s made with 100% fresh pressed apple juice. Current UK legislation states that cider only needs to contain 30% apple juice, therefore most big brand ciders are made with apple concentrate and sugar syrup which is a real shame. We’re proud to produce the proper stuff and people always comment on the fresh apple aroma!
What's the story behind Ampleforth?
The community of Benedictine monks settled in Ampleforth in 1802 and the orchards were planted to provide fruit for the monastery and school. Eventually the supply grew to be far greater than needed and the monks began producing a tasty cider with the surplus apples. With its 2,000 trees, Ampleforth Abbey Orchard is now largest commercial orchard in the north of England, and continues to grow many heritage varieties – which in itself is rather rare for a commercial orchard!
Today the monks employ a team of lay people to manage the orchard and cider production. This has created opportunities for local people, but the monks are still involved; they help with the apple harvest and even run a retreat entitled 'Ora et Labora' (pray and work) where retreatants are invited to spend a day in the orchard picking apples between attending services in the Abbey Church. Due to the initial purpose of the orchards, the apples are mainly dessert and cooking varieties, meaning the cider produced has a rich and complex flavour. Stewardship of the land is important to the monastic community, as this is a core Benedictine value.
The revenue from the cider supports the works of the monastic community and also helps to spread the burden of costs involved in maintaining the trees; ensuring the heritage varieties continue to flourish and are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Are there any plans for new flavours in the near future?
For us, the provenance of our produce is key - we have an abundance of apples and we would far rather put these to good use before experimenting with other fruit flavours. As well as Traditional Cider we also produce a Premium version which matures and carbonates naturally in the bottle, resulting in a delicious cider with an ABV of 8%. In 2015 we launched our Freshly Pressed Apple Juice and we also offer a range of other apple products including Cider Brandy and our award-winning Apple Liqueur. In 2012 we also launched Ampleforth Abbey Beer. Derived from a 17th century recipe in the Belgian Trappist style, the beer is brewed in partnership with local brewery Little Valley Brewery.
Images courtesy of Ampleforth Abbey Cider and Guzelian photography