SOUTH West food and drink producers were among the top winners at the National Trust Fine Food Produce Awards, which were announced at the BBC’s Countryfile Live show at Blenheim Palace.
Highlights include the overall drinks award for the traditional craft cider produced by the South Somerset Apple Juice and Cider Project at Barrington Court, near Ilminster, the Tudor mansion which has orchards that date back to the 19th century.
Now in their 14th year, the awards celebrate the best produce from the Trust’s 1,500 tenant farmers and estates, who between them look after more than 500,000 acres of farmland in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As well as being judged for taste, products are assessed against a range of environmental standards to guarantee their quality and origin.
“Our Fine Farm Produce Awards have attracted a fantastic range of products this year,” said Rob Macklin, the National Trust’s head of soils and farming. “From beef and hogget to apple juice and organic vegetables, this year’s award-winners show that sustainably produced food and drink is not only better for nature, it tastes better too.”
Barrington Court’s medium dry cider was given the overall title amid strong competition from other cider and apple juice producers, gaining the highest overall score. Made using a 200-year old cider press, the drink is amber coloured and slightly cloudy in appearance, with fine bubbles. It scored well for its honeycomb scent and characterful smoky caramel taste, which left an aftertaste of butterscotch.
Barrington Court’s ten acres of orchards are home to 140 types of apple, including ancient heritage varieties and fruit trees planted by Ian Lyle, whose family firm became Tate & Lyle, in the 1940s. Tom Putt, Beauty of Bath and Kingsdon Black are just three of the unusually-named varieties grown.
The successful apple and cider project is overseen by ‘pommelier’ Rachel Brewer and created with the help of passionate locals, staff and volunteers.
South Somerset lead ranger Mark Musgrove said: “Producing an award-winning cider takes a whole team of people – from our rangers who manage the traditional orchards and gardeners who tend the trees in formal areas, to our staff who organise events for the public and sell the products, and our brilliant volunteers who help plant, harvest and press the apples.”
The orchards are also important for wildlife, providing a habitat for species including mistle thrush, noble chafer beetle and pyramidal orchid.
The other South West winners are:
Burrow Farm, Exeter – Red Ruby Devon Beef Rump Steak
Clyston Mill, Exeter – Wholemeal Stoneground Flour
Coleshill Organics, Swindon – Small Organic Veg Box
Conygree Farm, Cheltenham – Cotswold Hogget Shoulder, Cotswold Mutton Leg
Handmade Exmoor, Minehead – Exmoor Heritage Wool, Exmoor Tweed
Killerton Estate, Devon – Sparkling Cider, Apple Juice, Still Medium Dry Cider
Martinsfield Farm Enterprise LLP, Exeter – Lamb Half Leg Joint
The Free Range Dairy, Carvannal Farm, Cornwall – Clotted Cream, Natural Yoghurt, Milk