While I’d consider Dunkertons Organic Cider a household name in these parts, having driven past the A40-based cidery heading out into the Cotswolds on dozens of occasions, this was to be the first time I’d flicked on the #SoGlosDiscovery indicator to venture into Dowdeswell Park.
The cidery itself enjoys a picturesque spot in the estate, set into a tree-lined valley, with a beautifully designed façade combining rustic wood and large black steel-framed windows – the Dunkerton’s logo emblazoned across the front.
The whole SoGlos team – all keenly in attendance for the afternoon Cidery Experience – had to stop their jaws from visibly dropping as we headed inside the shop. Welcome to what can only be described as cider heaven; a deceivingly large space brimming with bottles of Dunkerton’s single varieties, signature blends, tasting packs and gifts.
It was hard to avoid getting distracted as we made our way past the cider shoppers diligently studying tasting notes on bottles, through to a dedicated space where our cidery experience was to begin.
In a wood-panelled room complete with wall-to-wall kegs and framed photos on the walls, nodding to Dunkertons’ 30-year history, passionate retail manager Alan filled the dozen or so attendees’ glasses with a generous taste of signature Black Fox and briefly talked through the company’s past, present and future.
We nurtured glasses of amber nectar as the group was led outside to a series of surprisingly simple-looking machines responsible for cleaning and pressing the fresh deliveries of organic apples – by the end extracting 99 per cent of the juice, the leftover pomace going to a local farm.
Dunkerton’s traditional methods didn’t stop there, as Alan explained how the cidery specialises in using single varieties of apples, has a much smaller human operation than you’ll find at large, commercial varieties, and perhaps most remarkably, it’s 12 months before their well-aged ciders are ready for bottling – compared to just 28 days when it comes to your typical high street varieties.
Into the cider hall which felt somewhat more modern, the rows and rows of 200 huge shiny vats capable of holding a juicealicous two million litres (Dunkertons only harvest around 350-400 litres annually at present) – as Alan revealed some of the amazing science and secrets behind producing the perfect blends.
Now capable of answering at least a few Mastermind questions on the subject of cider-making, or at least holding our own the next time the subject of real cider came up in the pub, we retired to the sun-drenched terrace for the best part of the day – more cider and, this time, matched cheeses too.
Local oak-smoked Godminster organic cheddar alongside Dunkertons Black Fox, creamy blue veined Bath Blue cheese with a glass of Premium, and unsmoked cheddar again from Godminster with organic Perry – wow, wow and wow. If you thought beers and wines were cheese’s best friends think again, this was a taste experience we can’t stop raving about.
Dunkertons is not just a producer of some of the best ciders in the world, it’s also a true champion of the organic movement from right here in Gloucestershire.
And if you’re put off by the higher ABV typical of real ciders, Dunkertons has recently launched a delicious medium session cider at a much more manageable five per cent – cheers to that!
By James Fyrne
Tuesday 16 July 2019
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