Ridge and Furrow are based in Mutterton, Devon. Their old ridge and furrow orchard is thought to date back to the end of the 19th century. Once fallen into disrepair, but then restored in the 1970s it contains over 30 different varieties including the SW trifecta of Dabinett, Kingston Black and Yarlington Mill. They are a multi award winning cidery whose methods centre around ‘arrested fermentation’ whereby multiple rackings of the cider off the lees causes the fermentation to become very slow and not finish, leaving some residual sugar in the final product. The unfertilised, mature orchard creates fruit that suit this method especially well due to the low nutrient content.
As the cider is racked it leaves behind active yeast and nutrients as well as the lees, doing this multiple times means that there aren’t enough yeast cells or nutrients to complete the fermentation.
They make a number of different ciders from “naturally sweet” to medium, plus some bottle conditioned and Bag in box. I’ve got both their mediums here today, the lightly sparkling 500ml and the slightly drier bottled conditioned.
Ridge and Furrow – Medium – Lightly Sparkling 5%
Supreme champion at the Devon County Show in 2019 and Taste of the West Gold in 2020.
Colour: Golden Syrup
On the nose: crepes, calvados and butter poached apples. Then there’s hints of bitter orange pith coupled with red apple skin. There’s an element of partially oxidised apples, exactly like day old pomace. Finally there’s a healthy dose of orchard floor; earthy soil, wet leaves and crushed fruit.
In the mouth: So juicy and it is very lightly sparkling. Toffee apples, baked apple with raisins and stone fruit and vanilla custard. There’s a little flourish of acidity and the tannins seem harsh, like they need a little time to soften. The finish is sweet but in no way cloying.
In a nutshell: the orchard, the whole orchard and nothing but the orchard. Buy and drink in 6-12 months time.
Ridge and Furrow – Medium – Bottle Conditioned 6% (bottled on 17/04/19)
This cider is bottled before the slow fermentation has finished (a la pét nat). Described on the label as “a complex, naturally sparkling cider which balances the tannin, acidity and unfermented sugars from the carefully selected traditional cider apples”. The bottle conditioning has added more sparkle and an extra 1% to the alcohol by volume.
Colour: amber/orange gold
On the nose: A whiff of sulphur initially, which quickly dissipates but followed up by a smidge of volatile acidity, which is intertwined with apple brandy, leather, antique wood and clove spice.
In the mouth: Similar to the Lightly Sparkling Medium, juicy and fruit forward with notes of burnt orange. It’s slightly drier with a chalky mouthfeel. The finish has savoury notes of bacon, cheddar, spice and wood. No sign of that volatile acidity in the mouth.
In a nutshell: one to give a smidge more time again but a great table cider
Ooof, I found this difficult to pick. I really loved the nose of the lightly sparkling. It’s not often you can get the sum of the whole orchard in one scent, but here it is. Taste though was definitely the bottle conditioned; I really enjoyed the chalky texture and savoury tannins. What I found really interesting is the difference to a keeved cider. With keeving you do all of the work upfront to remove those nutrients so the yeast have to ferment slowly but I think quite often that can lead to them being stressed and off, sulphur flavours developing which then need time to dissipate. Here with arrested fermentation, the starving of the yeast is a gradual process and those off flavours were nowhere in sight in the lightly sparkling. I’m not sure of the vintage but given the edge on those tannins, I feel it’s relatively young. The whiff of sulphur in the bottle conditioned I would suggest have come from that additional conditioning and whilst quick to dissipate, in a year or two won’t be evident at all.
If you haven’t realised from the number of posts already this week, Devon cider is very much alive and glorious. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Ridge and Furrow to anyone who likes their cider on the sweeter but sophisticated side.