Sandford Orchards – A Cider Eureka Moment

Sandford Devon Red Supreme Cider £29.00 for 12 x 500ml bottles (£2.42 each) HERE

Sanfrod Reserve Fine Cask-Aged Cider £32.50 for 12 x 500ml bottles (£2.71 each) HERE

I visited the incredible Darts Farm, near Topsham in Devon to host a leg of my 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow and I was fortunate to spend the evening with Michael and James Dart.  This must be the finest farm shop in the country – I have never seen anything like it with wall-to-wall stunning local produce!  Before I kicked off with my event, they introduced me to Barny Butterfield, the man behind Sandford Cider, and a tasting of two of his ciders completely changed my view on this historic style of drink.

Here is some copy, taken from the Darts Farm website, that sets the scene for my cider epiphany!

“To call a drink ‘cider’, it must contain only 35% apple juice and can even be made from concentrate. Could you imagine drinking a wine made from 35% grape concentrate amongst other jargon?  No, us neither… Luckily, however, there are those who deviate from the industrial orthodoxy.  Artisans who value and nurture the terroir upon which their fruit grows, celebrating the history and diversity of the cider apple and encouraging a riot of complexity to unravel without manipulation.  Pure articulation of fruit and true expression of terroir. It may be contested by other Westcountry folks, but, Devon’s long sunlight hours, proximity to the sea, and red sandstone soil make for the best apple-growing conditions in the world.  Here at Darts Farm, we’ve been making craft cider from iconic East Devon orchards for over 20 years and are proud to be a small part of our county’s great cidermaking heritage.”

Barny Butterfield – Sandford’s Cider God!

While I only had a couple of minutes before the 100 Best crowds arrived, I tasted the two ciders pictured above.  Devon Red must be one of the finest value hand-crafted alcoholic drinks on earth.  Light, refreshing, clean, and stunningly classy, I can see myself stocking this forevermore for thirst-quenching duties, while Sandford Reserve is a genuine Grand Cru.  Rich, noble, foody, and effortlessly detailed with perfect oak integration and a heroic finish.  I wrote ‘fine-wine-style’ notes about two ciders that retail for fewer than £4.00 if you calculate their price in 75cl form.  This was a thunderclap moment in my tasting history and in one fell swoop it has reintroduced me to a style of drinks that I gave up on decades ago.  I can’t stand rich, gloopy, headachey, mass-produced cider with its hot alcohol and sickly palate.  I have not tasted craft cider like this since I was a teenager – it was like getting in a time machine.  Thank you Darts Farm and thank you Barny – you guys are legends.  I urge all of my readers to load up and taste just how stunning these ciders are.  I will order in the range and experiment further so keep your eyes peeled!