National supermarket chains
Sometimes the only possibility for obtaining some decent cider is to visit a supermarket, and even then they may not have any. Occasional offerings of 2 litre flagons of Westons Old Rosie or Scrumpy are worth taking advantage of but usually, specialist ciders in 500ml or 330ml bottles are the thing to go for.
Waitrose in the South and Midlands, and Booths up north are the best bet, also some larger Sainsbury's carry a wider range than the rest, but bare in mind that the ciders which they stock can change at any time and may vary from store to store.
Asda are currently (December 2005) stocking Frome Valley 500ml bottled cider, Henry Weston's Vintage Reserve 8.2% in bottles and the excellent value Weston's Vintage Organic 7.3% in a 3l bag in box for just £6.20p.
Northwestern supermarket chain with a policy of selling mostly locally produced meat and vegetables, with Stores in Cheshire, up through Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Cumbria. Booths are currently (Dec 2005) stocking various Sheppy's, Weston's (Old Rosie & Premium Organic), Dunkerton's (Organic, Black Fox & Perry), Cornish Orchard's (St Cubys & Black and Gold) Frome Valley (dry). Website here
This shelf in a fairly small Booths supermarket shows how things can be:
The Co-op launched its own Tillington Hills dry cider in 750ml bottles in 2005 and this was well worth seeking out (see website). This is a limited edition cider produced for the Co-op at Knights in Worcs, from apples grown at the Co-op's own Tillington Hills Farm orchard. When not available it may be replaced with Gaymers Orchard Reserve Stewley Single Orchard Cider.
Individual Co-ops have their own buying policies: the larger Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester branches of the Midcounties Coop often stock Weston's Traditional Scrumpy in 2l flagons. Midlands Co-op sell bottled Thatchers single-varietals and Westons.
Stocks Weston's 2 litre flagons of Old Rosie or Traditional Scrumpy on a more or less permanent basis now, plus bottled Westons including the recently re-launched bottle-conditioned cider. Also Addlestones, Gaymers Orchard Reserve, Thatchers, Aspalls and Frome Valley. Pricing is fairly aggressive and it's not unusual to find these bottles discounted (e.g. four for £5).
Most of Sainsbury's own brand stuff is made by Westons: they also stock Westons' own ciders, some Brittany and Normandy style ciders, Thatchers single-varietals, and a few others (including the decidedly cheerful-and-cheap(?) Thatchers Mendip Scrumpy). See also Gaymers Orchard Reserve cider which is available in Sainsbury, though distribution is not known as yet.
Unfortunately some Sainsbury's have recently reduced the shelf space devoted to real cider (e.g. dropping Westons Organic Vintage bag-in-a-box) so that they can sell more Magners/Bulmers Original/Gaymers Original/etc. etc.
In some areas (e.g. the south-west), Sainsbury's are stocking Dunkerton's and Sheppy's ciders, but unfortunately at this point in time they are not available nationally. Hopefully their presence will be noted elsewhere and marked up here.
Somerfield's own brand "so good" range used to include a tasty breton cider, but the single orchard and oak matured (rebadged Thatchers?) are inferior. Westons Premium Organic is probably the best on offer these days, amongst all the PETs. A disappointing range. Now part of the Co-operative group so cider stock may or may not improve.
Stocks Weston's 2 litre flagons of Old Rosie or Traditional Scrumpy on a more or less permanent basis now, along with a few other interesting bottled ciders. However, although large Tescos are often well supplied for cider, smaller ones have a pitiful selection (often nothing better than Merrydown) and are best avoided.
Waitrose has an excellent range of cheap own-brand cider made by Westons, plus a bottled Cox's Apple Vintage 2005 Cider made from apples grown at the Waitrose Farm in Leckford. There are also a wide variety of bottled ciders and perries from Aspalls, Dunkertons, Thatchers, Westons and others. The 3 litre Bag-in-a-box Organic Vintage is often available. Waitrose have also taken the step of highlighting ciders and perries made by local producers; for example in Wales, you may not find Dunkerton's products but you will find Gwynt-Y-Ddraigg ciders and Wernddu perries.