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Since first taking the plunge into cider-making in 2014 with a simple scrumpy brewed from the apples growing in their farmyard gardens, Warwickshire-based entrepreneurs Joylon and Charlotte Oliver have made it their mission to place sustainability at the heart of their burgeoning cider business, working with nearby villages and surrounding orchards to transform ‘unwanted’ apples into premium-quality cider blends to suit every palate.
Located in the picturesque village of Napton On The Hill, just a short drive from Southam and nearby Leamington Spa, this forward-thinking family-owned enterprise has continued to blossom since its launch in 2015, with more than 90,000 litres of cider produced on site each year. A lucrative sideline in special events and tours includes specialist cider-making workshops priced at £95 per person, regular comedy nights and ploughman’s & cider-tasting tours, priced from £22 for two people to £66 for a table of six.
I am something of a novice cider-drinker (festival season and family BBQs aside, of course), but our friendly and approachable host Charlotte was on hand to ease us into the evening with a guided sampling of six of Napton’s organic cider blends. The sampling took place against the atmospheric backdrop of the cidery’s on-site tap-room, a converted ‘dairy unit’ complete with wooden bench-style seating, a bar and a well-stocked shop serving up everything from oak-aged whiskey cask ‘batch cider’ to organic cider vinegar.
We were invited to experience one of Napton’s popular ploughman’s & cider-tasting events. It was fantastic to see Joylon and Charlotte’s genuine commitment to local produce extend to other areas of the business, including the outstanding Ploughman’s Platter, curated and supplied by long-term supporters and neighbours Napton Village Stores. The platter consisted of a hearty combination of freshly cooked ham, homemade pork pie, Fowler’s artisan cheeses and fresh pickled onions, served with French baguette and organic vegetables. The full-bodied flavours provided the ideal counterpoint to the strong, sweet notes of cider to come.
Our tutored tasting began with an introduction to Napton’s award-winning Signature range. First up, Recipe Number 3, Napton’s bestselling strong (and, in our case, still) dry cider, made from a blend of 17 varieties of cider apple. Served by the wine glass at room temperature, there was something ceremonial - something altogether unique - about tasting this blend in this way; undiluted, unapologetic and all the more delicious for it. We moved on to Recipe Number 4; a naturally hazy, sweet cider, rich in tannins and fermented for up to six months for maximum flavour.
Each sample brought with it new and fascinating insights into the making process. From the delightfully named ‘scratting’ of apples into pomace, to the delicate art of apple-pressing, Charlotte’s effortless delivery of the science was at all times insightful without ever intruding on the tasting experience.
As the strength of the cider began to kick in, it was time for a brisk walk around the grounds (perhaps to check whether we still could!). The walk allowed us to check out the fruits of Napton Cidery’s industry for ourselves. Accompanied by a chorus of bleating sheep and birdsong, our whistle-stop tour of the company’s dairy barns revealed a thriving engine room filled with container upon container of slowly fermenting cider. Alongside these were newly stacked and bottled blends, ready to make their journey to one of Napton’s 18 or more hand-selected stockists across Warwickshire.
Returning to the business at hand, our cider-tasting tutorial continued with the opportunity to sample one of Napton’s specialist craft ciders - the intriguingly named Lost Apple. A cloudy cider created from ‘forgotten fruit’, filtered and blended with real juice for a full-bodied yet highly refreshing flavour, it was my personal highlight of the evening.
Special mention must also go to Napton’s premium range, which includes the small-batch brewed Whiskey Cask cider, made with 30-year-old Kingston Black cider apples matured in single-malt whiskey casks - an intensely flavoured, high-alcohol blend that packs a real punch.
By way of contrast, there was a limited-edition Shropshire Perry made with a blend of gin and brandy plus four varieties of locally harvested pears.
My memories beyond the downing of my sixth cider are, I must confess, a little hazy. One thing is clear above all others, though: the future is bright for this pint-sized cidery. By cultivating an ‘extended family’ of local suppliers and partners, Napton Cidery has slowly but surely established itself as a permanent staple of Warwickshire’s independent food & drink culture. Add to this a warm and welcoming ambience, an idyllic countryside location, a well-thought-out programme of special events and experience packages and, perhaps most importantly of all, an award-winning product perfected over several years, and you’d be hard-pressed to ask for anything more.
Review by Katherine Ewing
Napton Cidery is situated at Holroyd House Farm, Southam, CV47 8NY Tel: 01926 811910
Posted on Tue 19 Oct
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