While working The Source Food Fair in Exeter a little while ago I came across Pilton Cider. The owner Martin Berkeley very kindly gave me a bottle of their 2012 vintage to try.
Pilton use the 450-year-old method of keeving to produce their cider. The process involves allowing the milled apple pulp and juice to macerate (stand) for up to 24hrs. Over the winter while the wild yeasts do their work, humble apple juice that is pressed from 88 different varieties is transformed into the sort of aperitif that other "aperitifs" wish they could be. I found it hard to believe a beverage at an abv of 5.5% contained so many layers of flavour, putting Pilton firmly at the vanguard of premium UK cider production.
Lovely amber gold, then pouring into the glass a dense meringue like foam frothed up. I’ve never seen such luxuriant bubbles on a head of cider! On the nose those gypsy yeasts are still frolicking merrily in the hayloft, while earthy woody mushrooms sprout in the beams. On the palate its refreshing apple resonance is clear, yet it is transformed, into a beverage that literally pulses with charm, depth and character. There’s mature apple, earthy woodiness and subtle spicy floral notes. Its texture manages to be creamy yet fresh, all the while your mouth is tickled by those vibrant bubbles.
This fruit of 2012 was pressed that year but then bottled in 2013. I adore the smart spare packaging with the classic cork and wire cage exuding class and refinement. In my opinion Martin and his small team are producing a cider so complex, dry and balanced that it could be seen as a bargain quality fizz rather than cider.
I said it once and I will say it again, this is the perfect aperitif, alone or with nibbles of the nutty or cheesy persuasion. But really this stuff is so fine you could carry it through a whole meal. Things like: grilled pork, roast chicken, fish and chips but also into to dessert: tarte tatin, bread and butter pudding or good stinky cheeses.
I cannot recommend Pilton highly enough and most certainly will be stocking on up on some very soon. I suggest you do the same...