RG 2009 March

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8289401_8cd6453906_s.jpg This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant

March, 2009


New Cider by Rosie Blog

Well this "blog on the wiki" has been going in the present format for quite a few years now, and it's time for a bit of a change. So March 2009 updates and future news are being posted over on the Cider by Rosie blog

The latest ten posts can also be read back on the index page linked above.

What remains here will stand as a historical archive of the last six years of growth mainly from 2003-2008.

We Sell Real Cider

On Thursday Frances and I paid our first visit of the year to the Square and Compass. Our village had been suffering a series of power cuts due to an intermittent fault. In the midst of the latest of these cuts that had already lasted for several hours, we felt like getting out and going somewhere cosy. There had been a few inches of snow overnight but it was already turning slushy when we left home. 'It will be alright when we get there. It never snows in Purbeck. Maritime air all around the place', I said.

Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

I proved to be as wrong as I was to prove fortunate. There had been a heavy snowfall south of Corfe Castle and the little road that turns off for Worth Matravers was looking very tricky indeed. The fortunate thing was thad we'd decided to take the Landrover rather than the the Ford Focus. It was slow going but we made surefooted and steady progress thanks to the four wheel drive. By the time we reached the village we were really looking forward to enjoying a drink and a hot pasty beside the Square's big log fire. Everything proved to be up to our expectations. We found Kevin clearing the snow from the path at the front of the pub. Once inside the pub it was obvious that he had already been busy within. The famous pasties were already piping hot. Being the first customers of the day we felt as though Kevin had built up the fire especially for our arrival. When he brought in the pasties he told us that earlier they had had to get a tractor to tow the Hopback brewery van up the hill out of the village. We had passed this vehicle on the way and now I understood why the driver had been shaking his head at us, as we approached. I was relieved that we had got to our homely destination without incident and felt all the more contented to be sitting by the fire enjoying Heck's 'Port Wine of Glastonbury' and the pasty.

After a while a few hardy walkers drifted in. One group were accompanied by six dogs, which surprised us by settling themselves into a heap under the table without so much as a whimper. Presumably they were extra tired from their walk in the snow. I contrasted the peaceful lunchtime scene with that of the Square in mid summer. Those of you who know the pub will be aware of the long queue for drinks that forms in the corridor from the front door to the small serving hatch that has been the bar throughout its long history. In the madness of the summer season I've yet to hear any of the holiday visitors complain as they wait their turn to be served. I'm sure they appreciate the uniqueness of this real pub, unspoilt by modernisation.

On this quiet snowy morning I enjoyed the unusual ease of walking over those well worn flags and up to the little bar. As I did so it came to me that this is the true focal point of the old place, even more so than its fine log fire. There was the blackboard on the wall with the list of real ciders and ales and there right beside the hatch something familiar caught my eye; Jez's ukcider sticker' WE SELL REAL CIDER'. I was pleased to see that Kevin had put it in such a prominent position and also that the colours were still as good as when Dick printed them.



Best Before Date

I'm prompted to write about this again, having had an email from Tim Wale of Tutts Clump Cider in Berkshire. Having read my recent note about BB dates on bag in box packaging, Tim asks what I do about BB dating on my bottles. I have so far been of the opinion that there is no requirement for BB dates on bottles of cider since 'wine or similar products' are exempt. This was the general opinion that was also elicited from our group, when I mentioned being reprimanded on this matter by Dorset Trading Standards two years ago.

I had another tussle with them last year, when I was again told that there should be a BBD on my bottle labels because cider is not exempted from the regulation. The inspector was only assuaged on noting that over 90% of my output is in bag in boxes and that these are BBD marked. Ironically the regulations exempt quantities greater than 5 litres supplied to catering establishments (pubs?), so In most cases I am marking the boxes unnecessarily!

It is common sense to put a date on the boxes since they are only intended for short term storage, but I've still not resolved the problem with the bottles. Not only is it a fiddly business date marking bottles without special machinery, it is also hard to know what length of time to specify. How long is a piece of string? I noted recently how my bottled cider had markedly improved after two years. Perhaps the bottles need to be marked with a 'best consumed' date band corresponding to say, between one and three years after bottling! It is a difficult issue that I am trying to resolve by looking at what others are doing. Looking at a number of bottles from the various large manufacturers, I've noticed that they are stamping BBDs on their bottles or on the bottle cap of typically one year from the selling date. Bottles of beer are also marked in the same way. I wonder if is purely nominal, being that they mass produced items where the marking machinery exists as a standard function of the bottling line. The question is, am I, or are we, breaking the law by not date marking bottles of craft cider?

I tried to resolve the issue by using google. The main Trading Standards website is vague and unhelpful. You'd get the impression that beer and cider does not exist! Then I started looking at various local authority trading standard standards sites to see if they contained more specific information concerning exemption from BBD marking. I could not even find a mention of BBD on the Dorset site! Eventually I came across the one from Wirral which helpfully states that, 'wine and similar drink obtained from fruit other than grapes' is exempt.

QED ? I'd like to think so. What do others think?


Andrew Lea writes:

I believe that cider is exempt from BBD under regulation 22 (b) of the Food Labelling Act. See [1] See also the Food Standards Agency guidance notes [2] Annex Section 3.3

However, I believe that Lot Marking *is* required for traceability. See the same guidance notes Annex Section 2.9

If in any doubt you can phone Food Standards Agency for clarification. Or, since you are a member of 3CCPA, ask them to ask the NACM.


I think the local Trading Standards have got it wrong. I will try the 'similar drink made from fruit other than grapes' clause on them when they visit me this year. - Rose

I discussed this with Richard Toft at Pershore College when he bottled my last batch in November. As I understand it, advice from Hereford and Worcester Trading Standards is that BBE is not required on cider. However a Lot Number *is* required (though a voluntary BBE can act as a substitute lot number if you wish), since all batches of food must be traceable. So I have no BBE date but I do have a lot number (I sell very little but I like to be legal). I just checked some recent bottles of Tom Oliver's fine produce and he does likewise. Tom is an ex-Chairman of 3CCPA and has a high profile in the craft cider community so I doubt he'll be getting it wrong. I suggest you get your Dorset TS people to check with their counterparts in Hereford and Worcester (where arguably much more cider is bottled and they are more up to speed!). - Andrew