If you’re a perry drinker in the UK, there’s a good chance you already know about Bartestree. Dave and Fiona Matthews are unquestionably among the foremost champions and makers of the drink. I’ve written up a good handful of their creations over time myself, and I’m not sure anything reviewed on this site has ever been lavished with the level of praise that our Chris reserved for their Hendre Huffcap.
So it wouldn’t have been a proper Perry Month Spotlight Series had this outstanding pair of Herefordshire producers not been involved, and I’m thrilled that as of today they are.
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Bartestree: Dave and Fiona Matthews, Bartestree Cider Co.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Bartestree: Introduced to it by Kevin Minchew, who made a whole range of single varietal perries, each with its own flavour and aroma.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape (perhaps even the terroir!) and any perry culture (or lack thereof).
Bartestree: Bartestree is three miles east of Hereford, and perry pear trees are all around us in this area. English perry seems to have started just south of here, at Holme Lacy, where Vicount John Scudamore brought the first perry trees from France.
CR: Tell us about some of the pear varieties you work with. How they are to grow and work with and the different flavours they bring? Tell us about any of your favourites.
Bartestree: Top favourite is Moorcroft, for its grapefruit juicy sharp loveliness. Other top fave is Hendre Huffcap, which has an intense flavour reminiscent of honey and apricots. Other top fave is Barnet, with its citrus caramel hit. And let’s not forget Gin, which gives a full bodied loveliness that makes it my top favourite.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Bartestree: Some draught and still, but the majority pét nat. Pét nat brings the best out of perry, since the drink can evolve and improve for years in the bottle. All pure juice, spontaneously fermented, of course.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Bartestree: Just the physicality. We’re getting older, and it’s all done by hand.
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Bartestree: Drinking something from a tree that is 300 years old, so drinking exactly what people were drinking in the 1700s.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Bartestree: Haven’t got one really.
CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?
Bartestree: Moorcroft perry and fresh goat’s cheese.
CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?
Bartestree: “It’s bloody brilliant, you’d be a fool not to try it”
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Bartestree: See above! James Marsden at Gregg’s Pit makes a terrific Thorn perry. By the way, Thorn is my top favourite variety.
It’s not too late to take part in our Perry Month Spotlight series! If you’re a perrymaker reading this, be it in the Three Counties, Domfront, Mostviertel … or anywhere else, we would love to learn about you too. Just drop us a message with your email, and Adam will get the interview out to you.