Cider rul­ing leaves bit­ter taste

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - ALEX ROSS [email protected]­

CIDER-MAK­ERS in the West have lost their bid to pro­tect their 4,500-year-old brand – be­cause the Gov­ern­ment says there is no ev­i­dence the drink is dis­tinct.

Twelve in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers say the name ‘Devon Cider’ should only be used on drinks made with at least 90 per cent of juice pressed from ap­ples grown in the county.

In an ap­pli­ca­tion for a Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin, The Devon Ci­der­mak­ers’ Guild claimed their pro­duce was unique be­cause of the area’s cli­mate and red soils.

The cider was also his­tor­i­cally linked to the county, with ev­i­dence of pro­duc­tion dat­ing from the Ne­olithic pe­riod, the group said.

But De­fra was not con­vinced and re­fused the ap­pli­ca­tion.

It came af­ter one un­named cider pro­ducer said its prod­ucts mar­keted as ‘Devon Cider’ would not meet the spec­i­fi­ca­tions, and pro­tec­tion would ‘harm’ its busi­ness.

The Gov­ern­ment body said the weather or the ‘di­verse ar­ray of grow­ing con­di­tions’ in the county did not cre­ate a unique ap­ple to the rest of the coun­try.

Tech­niques to make the cider were also not in­her­ent to the county, it added.

The de­ci­sion means com­pa­nies can con­tinue to pro­duce ‘Devon’ cider with ap­ples grown any­where in the world.

James Mcil­wraith ap­plied to De­fra on be­half of the guild.

He pro­duces 7,000 litres of cider from his 50-acre farm in Samp­ford Courte­nay, but also sup­plies ap­ples to nearby cider-mak­ers.

He said: “I’m very dis­ap­pointed that De­fra thinks Devon, as a county, is not good enough to have its own county-based cider name.

“If coun­ties like Glouces­ter­shire, Worces­ter­shire and Here­ford­shire have pro­tec­tion, why can’t we?

“We know a lot of cider is made in the county us­ing ap­ples from out­side – we be­lieve by mar­ket­ing that as Devon cider, that is wrong.

“As much for busi­ness, this is also about the con­sumer.

“In a world where peo­ple now want to know where their food and drink comes from, we be­lieve peo­ple should be able to see the dif­fer­ence be­tween drinks be­fore buy­ing them.

“Devon cider has a unique taste, and we wish to share that with the world.”

He added: “It is im­por­tant for us, as we ap­proach Brexit, to be able to cre­ate a mar­ket­ing pack­age for our drinks when look­ing to trade around the world.”

Som­er­set Cider Brandy has sim­i­lar pro­tec­tion. Five years ago, it achieved Pro­tected Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion, which meant it must come from one of 20 spec­i­fied va­ri­eties of cider ap­ples.

Ju­lian Tem­per­ley, owner of Som­er­set Cider Brandy Com­pany, said: “Ob­vi­ously, I’m dis­ap­pointed for James, but this was a big task.”

As­ton Manor Cider pro­duces Devon cider from its pro­duc­tion plant in Tiver­ton. It was this year bought out by French agri­cul­tural co-oper­a­tive Agrial.

A spokesman said: “We recog­nise the merit in con­sumers be­ing in­formed, es­pe­cially where that com­mu­ni­cates qual­ity, au­then­tic­ity and prove­nance.

“Though as with the ex­pe­ri­ence in other coun­ties, we are not cer­tain this for­mal des­ig­na­tion achieves that.”

He added: “We are very sup­port­ive of other pro­duc­ers, what­ever their scale, for the qual­ity and breadth of cider avail­able to be en­joyed.

“Work­ing through in­dus­try bod­ies and di­rectly with cider-mak­ers we look to build in­ter­est in the drink at home and abroad.”

A spokesman for De­fra said ap­pli­ca­tions for Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin were guided by EU guide­lines.

He said: “We know UK busi­nesses value be­ing recog­nised by ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tions schemes to help pro­tect their prod­uct’s unique­ness.

“All ap­pli­ca­tions for Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin sta­tus are con­sid­ered against the rel­e­vant scheme’s strict cri­te­ria.

“On this oc­ca­sion, the ap­pli­ca­tion by Devon Ci­der­mak­ers’ Guild did not meet the EU’s cri­te­ria.”

Guy Har­rop

Han­cock’s tra­di­tional cider or­chard at South Molton, Devon

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