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10 best Somerset ciders

Take a trip to the drink's spiritual home with the best bold, fruity flavours the county has to offer

Richard Hood
Thursday 25 May 2017 11:22 BST

Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Kent. All fine, upstanding cider-making counties that coax and squeeze fantastic golden-hued boozes from locally grown fruits. But if you want to travel to the very core of the English cider-making scene, head westwards to the leafy lanes of Somerset – to cider's spiritual home.

The Somerset cider style is defined by bold, fruity flavours and rich, complex tannins, imparted by the bittersweet apples that are commonly used. And within this Somerset style, a heady choice of ciders exists, ranging from gentle, face-stroking ciders to ones that’ll strip the enamel from your teeth.

Here are ten top examples of Somerset's finest export, to help you separate the rough from the smooth.

1. Roger Wilkins Dry Farmhouse Cider, 6%: £10 for 5 litres; £20 for 10 litres; £38 for 20 litres, Wilkins Cider

Not a cider for the novice – a sip of Wilkins’ will put hairs on your chest. And those hairs will sprout hairs. Roger makes his cider the traditional way, leaving the juice to ferment naturally in wooden barrels, resulting in a fearsome, robust, Lucozade-hued booze that’s not ready to tap until Roger says it’s ready. Roger 'doesn't do email' but welcomes phone orders for his sweet, medium or dry ciders.

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2. Worley’s Mendip Hills, 6.8%: £3 for 500ml, Worley’s Cider

Once a small-scale hobbyist, Neil Worley now makes over 30,000 litres of cider a year from his smallholding near Frome. Worley’s barn is heaving with quality ciders, but Mendip Hills is his showstopping best. Made from a blend of late season cider apples, it’s a complex mix of lingering spices and fruity, toffee-apple tartness, enhanced with a gentle carbonation that fizzes and pops.

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3. Perry’s Somerset Redstreak, 6%: £2.40 for 500ml, Perry’s

This is a single-variety golden wonder from one of the West Country's best-loved cider-makers. It’s a fragrant, floral cider that’ll take your tastebuds on a summertime Somerset sojourn through autumnal orchards laden with fruits. Gentle tannins will tickle your tonsils. The fresh apple astringency will pucker your cheeks.

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4. Bridge Farm Bottle Conditioned Cider, 3.8%: £4.20 for 750ml bottle, Bristol Cider Shop

Bridge Farm cider is made the traditional way – local Yeovil apples are hoovered up and fed through an antique rack and cloth press to produce this ambrosial, bottle-conditioned treat. And at 3.8 per cent, it’s the closest you'll get to a sessionable cider. Like drinking delicious, dangerous apple juice.

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5. Hecks Port Wine of Glastonbury: £2.70 for 500ml, Bristol Cider Shop

The Hecks family have been pressing, squeezing and fermenting cider for six generations. They know what they’re doing. Revered for their robust, single variety ciders, the Port Wine of Glastonbury is the pick of the crop. Containing neither port nor wine – it's the name of the apple from which the cider is made – this fruity beauty is a medium-sweet, deep amber delight with a lingering, vinous finish.

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6. Sheppy’s Vintage Reserve, 7.2%: £1.99 for 500ml, Waitrose

Here’s a full-bodied big-hitter from one of Somerset’s oldest and most respected producers. This cider is aged in ancient wooden vats which mellow and tame the bold, juicy, bittersweet flavours within. Sheppy’s Vintage Reserve can often be spotted in supermarkets, indignantly staring down the inferior ciders it shares shelf space with. Beware its strength.

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7. Burrow Hill Medium/Dry Farmhouse Cider, 6%: £4.10 for 2 litres, Eebria

A lauded farmhouse cider-maker from the Somerset Levels, Burrow Hill are responsible for Glastonbury festival’s legendary, mud-skipping Cider Bus and the hoards of hungover festival-goers that trail in its wake. Their draft farmhouse cider is smooth, golden and more-ish – a cider that treads the path between rustic and refined with assured ease.

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8. Harry’s Dry Sparkling Cider, 6%: £2.60 for 500ml, Beers by Post

An easy-supping, gentle introduction to the Somerset cider style. Made from locally sourced apples, Harry’s cider is an aromatic, well-balanced booze with rich tannins and a crisp apple tartness. Dry, but not overbearing – carrying just enough residual sugar to give it a subtle underlying buttery sweetness.

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9. Old Jollop High Noon, 6.5%: £2.70 for 500ml, Bristol Cider Shop

A relative newcomer on the Somerset cider-making scene, Old Jollop is made by a posse of passionate cider-ists based in Wedmore, deep in apple country. Their High Noon blend is a milder booze than the Wild West branding may suggest – it’s a classy, more-ish cider with a delicate tannic bite.

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10. Pilton 2014 Classic Keeved Cider, 5.5%: £7.50 for 750ml bottle, Pilton Cider

Fermented in huge vats, stowed in cold Victorian vaults within Shepton Mallet's old Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, Pilton cider is a naturally sweet, golden-hued marvel. It's made by keeving – a tricky, traditional fermentation process that results in a delicious, effervescent booze that sparkles on the tongue and slides down like honey.

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For a gentle introduction to the wonders of Somerset cider, grab a nice bottle of Harry’s. For those wishing to seek out a pure, unabashed cider that captures the very essence of rural Somerset life, fill your glass with Wilkins and raise a toast to the bittersweet apple.

Richard Hood is one half of the Two Thirsty Gardeners. Their book, Brew it Yourself, is out now.

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