I’m a fairly well-established fan of Cwm Maddoc by now. Their 2017 Foxwhelp, Pig’s Face and Tom Putt (reviewed here) is ensconced as my ‘house cider’ when I’m after something sharp, and their gorgeous 2018 Kingston Black (here) was probably the geophysicist’s cider of the year in 2020.
Everything I’ve had from Jeremy and Claire has been spotlessly clean and a brilliant, full-juice reflection of the apples or pears from which it is made and the vintage in which they grew. I’m not sure there’s much more you can ask for than that. I’m thrilled that, as of last year, they’ve become available online. Although it means that I now have to share their all-too-rare gems with far too many people, the new attention really is the least their quality deserves.
But I’ve only previously reviewed them alongside the creations of other producers – I’ve never done a “spotlight on”-type piece. So, since at the time of writing I am working on a Cwm Maddoc profile for Pellicle, I thought it was only right and proper to crack open a few of their bottles for CR as well.
All perries today – unusually Cwm Maddoc currently bottles more perry than they do cider, and I think it is through the perries that Jeremy and Claire’s fascination with rare, unusual varieties shines through brightest. Like all of their creations, these are wild fermented in stainless steel and then bottled “pét nat”.
First up is a mini vintage vertical of Green Horse – an extremely rare pear that is entirely new to me. We have the 2018 in 500ml and the 2019 in swanky 750. You can find the latter at Fram Ferment and The Cat in the Glass hovering around the £10 mark.
Cwm Maddoc Green Horse Medium Dry 2018 – review
Colour: Fresh lemon juice
On the nose: Lovely bright perry nose. There’s some round, ripe generosity here – fresh pear, melon, lemon jelly, offset by the greenness of lime leaf and hedgerow. Not quite floral. Hugely appealing.
In the mouth: The story continues. That juicy pear up front sharpening into a tang of fresh lime juice and wet stone. Just the lightest tingle of fizz. This is the sort of bright, fresh, fruity, citrusy perry that brings the sun out. I could drink buckets of it.
In a nutshell: A definite “buy”, especially for lovers of Thorn or Sauvignon Blanc.
Cwm Maddoc Green Horse Medium Dry 2019 – review
Colour: Same as above
On the nose: Similar to the 2018, but less ripe and rounded – the lime leaf and meadow characters are still here, but the pear fruit is a few shades less juicy. A little touch of peardrop acetone – just a tiny bit.
In the mouth: The lively mousse lends a lovely spritzy pep to the lemon’n’lime, green pear and mineral. Really zingy and fresh – a little less body than the 2018, but compensated for by the mousse. A bright, light aperitif perry.
In a nutshell: A nose behind its predecessor vintage, but ticks a lot of the same boxes.
Next up we’ve the 2019 Oldfield. Its 2017 counterpart was not only the first Cwm Maddoc I think I ever tried, but was the overall perry winner at The Big Apple Cider & Perry Trials – the peer-judged competition for cider and perry and thus the one that makers generally seem to want to win most. We’ve not reviewed an Oldfield in these pages before, but Tom Oliver’s on record as calling it his “desert island pear”, so our expectations are calibrated accordingly. A 750ml bottle is available from Fram Ferment for £9.10, or you can pick it up from Cat in the Glass for £8.95.
Cwm Maddoc Oldfield Medium Dry 2019 – review
Colour: Crystal clear pale straw
On the nose: Really delicate aromatics that just scream Herefordshire perry. Bright pear, meadow flowers and cut grass. Not as green as that description sounds though – there’s a juiciness here that starts nodding towards peach skin and honeydew melon. Delicate, as I say, but very attractive.
In the mouth: Bigger here than it was on the nose, courtesy of the mousse and some almost-unexpectedly-assertive tannins. Yellow pear skins and sparkling mineral water. A seam of zesty, limey acidity. Clover and wet pebbles. Big dandelion stalk. A touch of peardrop. This is really bright, precise fare, but it seems all about the structure at the moment. Give it a couple more years and I suspect its flavours will unfurl rewardingly further.
In a nutshell: Nice, very of its place and vintage. Wants time.
Last of all is the Betty Prosser. If Cwm Maddoc have a flagship, it’s probably this. It’s what always comes up when I talk to Jeremy and Claire – a pear so rare that only three makers I know make it. Jeremy and Claire pick theirs from two old Monmouthshire trees, and indeed Monmouthshire seems to be the original home and location of most existent Betty Prosser, although Charles Martell’s indispensable “Pears of Gloucestershire” describes 12 trees growing in guess which county. The bottle I have today is the 2018.
Cwm Maddoc Betty Prosser Medium Sweet 2018 – review
Colour: Lemon jelly
On the nose: Now there’s a nose. Huge and indulgent – can smell this from the far side of the room. Pears poached in red wine, preserved lemons, the redness of strawberry jam. Floral honey and dessert wine. It’s a glorious nose, to be honest – opulent, yet incredibly fresh and fruit-driven.
In the mouth: Almost an exact follow-through. Huge intensity of flavour – all jammy red fruits, poached pears and heather honey. Shades of sweet Vouvray in places – loads of dessert wine energy – but leaner, fresher, less teeth-sticking. Soft acidity and that touch of light carbonation keep things balanced. Just exceptionally good.
In a nutshell: Outstanding. My favourite Cwm Maddoc perry to date.
A few things to take away from this, really. Firstly, Cwm Maddoc remain, in my eyes, one of the gems of Herefordshire. If you’ve not already looked them up, do so.
Secondly, my general impression of 2019 as a vintage for south western and three counties cider and perry is that it was, certainly compared to 2018, a challenging one. Not to say that tremendous ciders and perries weren’t made, simply that it wasn’t a slam-dunk in the way that, for instance, 2018 was. Generally less ripeness and intensity of flavour if we look at the vintage across the board. That seems borne out by this tasting, particularly by the comparison of the two Green Horses. It’s not that the 2019 isn’t a good perry – it is. It simply isn’t as ripe, as round, as ‘complete’ as the 2018. But that, of course, is why vintage products are more interesting than something which can just be rinsed and repeated ad infinitum.
Final point is that the Betty Prosser 2018 is just magnificent. My favourite Cwm Maddoc perry by miles, possibly my favourite Cwm Maddoc full stop. I can’t find it online, alas, but I’d wager the Cider Museum and Middle Farm might have a bottle or two lurking on shelves, should you be lucky enough to live nearby. And if you do happen upon one, for God’s sake don’t leave it where it is.