Well, what a palava. You turn up on the tellybox sporting a silly moustache and suddenly you’re tabloid fodder. All I can say is that it must have been a slow news day! For those that missed it, my latest appearance on Sunday Brunch caught the eye of some viewers owing to the apogee of my moustache, promoting a flurry of activity in the Sun and the Daily Express. The most memorable line was the cry of “hipster moustache klaxon!”, which I found rather amusing, but also prompted some consideration on my part.
I’m not a hipster. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a tool and that I sport a moustache because I want to and because it’s fun. I’m a country bumpkin at heart who likes to talk about cider. My legs and bum are way too ‘sturdy’ to handle a pair of skinny jeans (Gloucestershire farming genes to thank there) and I don’t sport an array of tattoos. But I do have a large moustache. And I was wearing a checked shirt – another crucial part of the hipster aesthetic. So, the question is, have I reached (literal and metaphorical) peak moustache? Is the top lip appendage catalysing my mission to spread the word on fabulous ciders or is beginning to act as a distraction to the core message? Something for me to ponder.
Whilst “moustchachegate” was kicking off, I was actually in the midst of presenting some bloody awesome ciders. In celebration of St Patrick’s day and in commiseration of England’s loss to Ireland at the rugby, I brought 3 Irish ciders onto the show for the guests to taste. They were all quite different, but as always, that’s precisely what I want: to showcase the diversity.
I managed to cause some consternation from viewers by saying that the first cider, Tempted Dry, was from Lisburn in Country Armagh (when, of course it’s from Country Antrim). Fair play, I made a boo boo there. All the more shameful given that I am a card carrying, colouring-in certified, Geography graduate. Better get back to choosing the Atlas as my bedtime reading of choice! As it happens, the cider was brilliant – crisp and fresh, but steely and sturdy with fruit bursting all the way through. This would be great with food, especially a bbq, to cut through the rich meat.
At the other end of the spectrum was Longueville House medium dry cider. Made on the estate in County Cork from true, West Country cider apple varieties, this cider provides all of the rich, spicy and earthy qualities one would hope for in this style of cider. Try it as a digestif after a satisfying meal. The most subtle of 3 ciders (and I don’t mean that euphemistically) was Longmeadow Oak aged cider. With generations of apple growing at their core, Father and son, Pat and Peter McKeever, from Portadown, County Armagh, have created a range of really enjoyable ciders. The impact of the oak cask maturation is to provide a real smoothness and softness, with hints of vanilla. A really clever and satisfying drink.
Meanwhile, back in Ciderland, Spring has finally sprung. What a joy to wander around the Shire in the sunshine (Pomona knows we haven’t seen much of that over the winter), especially in my little village of Dymock, famed for its showing of Wild Daffodils at this time of year. New season ciders and perries are beginning to be tapped (and tasted). The cuckoo is early this year! I had the privilege to sample possibly the best perry I have had for many a year in shape of Newton Court’s Winnal’s Longdon. Go and visit Paul on the farm and seek out this gorgeously balanced drink!
Although my passion for cider and perry created from, and by, my local landscape will never wane, I am becoming increasingly excited by the ciders and perries being made in other parts of the world. As I found in New Zealand, during my time living there, most countries around the globe (certainly in the New World) don’t have the incredible heritage or tradition of cider making that we have in the UK, or that exists in Asturias, Brittany or Frankfurt. But they do have imagination and entrepreneurialism, and they know how to make good booze. There are some wonderful drinks being created, so starting on Friday, I’m off to go and explore them.
Yes, jammy git that I am, I’m going to Australia, New Zealand and the USA to talk, taste and learn. It’s going to be a wonderful 4 weeks. I’ll give everyone a full rundown of my activities upon my return, which will be just in time for the cider apple blossom. I love it when a plan comes together!