Cider ruling leaves bitter taste
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.”
Hancock’s traditional cider orchard at South Molton, Devon