Features, perry
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Meet your (perry)maker — Wilding

All things good come to an end, and I’m rather sad to say that today marks the final instalment in our series of perrymaker spotlights. A huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has read and shared any of them so far; I hope you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories as much as I have. And of course an extra big thanks to all the makers who have taken time out of their busy schedules to contribute.

But we’ve still one more left to go, and let’s go out with a bang via one of the most heralded makers of the modern British scene.

Wilding, being Somerset based, are predominantly known for their ciders. But they’ve released a few perries in their time, which I’m excited to spotlight today. Sam and Beccy are makers who put a particular emphasis on expressing their place; their terroir, which puts them directly in line with my own personal interests, as a paid-up soil-botherer, so it was an extra delight to read the responses Sam sent me below. Enjoy!

CR: Introduce yourself and your company.

Sam: Beccy and I started Wilding Cider in 2016, after a couple of enjoyable years of hobby cider making with some friends. At the time we were runnning a restaurant in Bristol (Birch) and were looking for something to do for the rest of our lives that combines our love of food and drink, farming, landscape and culture. We are now based in Chew Magna in North Somerset, where we have 5 acres of traditional orchard on the farm, a rented ciderhouse nearby and a further ten acres of rented orchard in the area.

We make cider and perry naturally in a fairly uncompromising fashion – fruit is all grown organically (though not all formally certified) in grazed, traditional orchards which we careful manage to promote good fruit quality and biodiversity alongside each other. We hand pick everything from the floor, mostly letting it fall naturally (no shaking – but with some exceptions) then mature it in crates or sacks until ready for pressing. Milling and pressing is done in the usual way on a rack and cloth press and then juice is fermented with wild yeasts without addition of sulphites at any stage, no pasteurisation, fining, filtration or any other additions.

We like to make a range of different kinds of drinks to reflect both the glorious diversity of cider and perry, as well as our various tastes. Mostly fermenting in stainless steel, our aim is to achieve well balanced, very ripe, mellow and drinkable cider which lets the fruit and terroir do the talking, rather than the hand of the cider maker. With most of our trees old, we are able to easily make sweet ciders using the Rural Method of cold racking, often only racking once or twice in winter to get the fermentation to grind to a gentle halt.  

CR: How did you come to start making perry?

Sam: While making the frequent drive from our farm down to our Ditcheat Hill orchard we would drive past the orchards of Chew Stoke, where large orchard trees are visible one field away from the lake road. A hunch that they were pears was confirmed in the exceptional blossom year of 2020 when I could see explosions of blousy white blossom erupting over the hedge. After a bit of detective work I found the owner and we turned out to be in the right place at the right time: when the previous cider maker scaled back his operations we were ready to step in and pick the orchard that autumn. Thrown into the deep end, I just had a list of varieties planted there (without locations), Charles Martell’s book on Perry Pears and a brief email from Tom Oliver with some tips. It was brilliant.

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).

Sam: We are in North Somerset, not far from Bristol, with a long orchard tradition, much of which was focussed on growing table fruit for the Bristol market, and so though every farm would have made cider, it hasn’t got the same reputation for cider as south Somerset. Nonetheless, this is an area with obvious heritage and a modest selection of famous vintage quality varieties – Ashton Brown Jersey, Gatcombe (Gin), Backwell Red, Court de Wyck, Ashton Bitter and Morgan Sweet. In terms of terroir we see here a repetition of the best of Somerset geology which is a series of E-W running ridges with heavy clay, marl and limestone geology, with heavy loam and clay soils, and excellent orcharding on the the south facing slopes. Our orchards are all on the south facing slopes of these ridges.

Perry is almost unknown here, as in much of Somerset. There is recieved wisdom that perry pear trees will not do well in Somerset but the orchard in Chew Stoke shows this to be untrue. Long Ashton Research Station was not far from us and it had a number of handsome perry pear trees. It was in a series of trial orchards run by LARS that the Chew Stoke orchard was planted over 5 acres at Perry House Farm (suggesting a much older connection to pears and perry here). One of the larger trial orchards, it featured all 15 of the trial varieties and one can see now which have flourished, which struggled and which nearly failed. The lower lying areas mostly failed and were re planted with cider apples in the 70s, so that the orchard now is a beautiful mix of big trees and small , apples and pears, pink and white.

When we started renting our orchards in Compton Dando in 2021 we discovered a row of perry pears having an off year, which we now know to be Moorcroft. The first juice of those trees was pressed into tank on 20th September 2022 at an astonishing gravity of 1.091. Somerset perry has legs.

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.

Sam: Our pear experience is limited to the 15 varieties grown at Perry House Farm. They all grow very differently and some are barely producing anything while others are reliable croppers. Some notes below:

Barland – a bad grower on this site with much canker and very small crops

Barnet – shy cropper but the small crops we’ve had so far have been really nice

Blakeney red – reliable cropper and a staple of the orchard. Easier to pick than most but less interesting perry 

Claret –  Can be very high cropping, plenty of tannin. No real reputation but I think it has potential.

Hellens Green – it seems that the ten trees in Chew Stoke make up the majority of the eleven mature trees of this variety in existence! Sadly its perry is very sharp and a bit coarse. 

Holmer – very early and low yielding  

Judge Amphlett – when it bletts it will go one of two ways – either rich and sweet and delicious, or antiseptic and unpleasant. Very hard to work with when really ripe as a result. 

Moorcroft – definitely a favourite variety though it can be difficult to work with – a narrow ripening window, a requirement to shake from the tree and extremely tall trees make it quite a challenge. The juice is fantastic and the well bletted pears are an extraordinary experience – halfway between fresh dates and bakewell tart and custard

New Meadow – seems good, there is a good crop this year I’m looking forward to picking

Oldfield – small, unhealthy looking trees nonetheless produce every year here, easy to pick and with great juice. A favourite.

Pine – a bit like Oldfield in many ways. Juice we’ve had has been excellent, possibly very underrated. 

Pint – only one tree left I can see, reluctant to crop.

Taynton Squash – the juice is fantastic but the pears are very small, like cherries and so it’s very very slow to pick. A favourite nonetheless.

White Longdon – large trees horribly broken with canker but giving good fruit every year. Like a better version of Blakeney Red.  

Yellow Huffcap – My favourite variety, which grows healthily here and embodies everything I like about perry. The fruit needs to be shaken at just the right moment as they start to blett, pears are small and fiddly, the juice is extremely sweet, sharp, fruity and intense. It’s a flavour sensation like nothing else. Hoping to do a single variety tank of this.

CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.

Sam: We make perry similarly to how we make cider – all naturally, usually racking once during fermentation as recommended by our perry heroes Bartestree. Bottled to either become Pet Nat or still, we are really in the very very early days of our perry making journey. We have a wild keeved perry from 2020 yet to release, and the future should hold more single variety tanks as we devote more of our smallest tanks and casks to perry rather than cider. I’d like to do a properly sparkling dry pet nat but we find fairly substantial amounts of sorbitol, and generally the specific gravities of the juices are notably higher than the books suggest. Somerset’s sun maybe?

CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?

Sam: Perry’s challenges are all part of the pleasure. Slow to grow, often hit by canker and fireblight, tiny, fragiile and slow to pick, each tree needs a visit every week and the fruit once picked must be dealt with soon, or for some varieties must be left until perfect. It turns from perfect to compost in about a day and a half. The juice can do anything at any point. It will throw pectin gels at random, tannin hazes come, settle and clear, then another one comes on later on. Bottles of perry turn to snow globes as soon as the weather gets warm or cold. It’s much harder to make than wine and yet everyone expects to pay the same as cider. All of the above make it an irrisistable endavour. 

CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?

Sam: There are very very few agricultural systems which work on a 400 year timescale, but traditional perry orchards are one of them. For a farmer with a love of trees that’s extremely appealing! The perry can be quite extraordinary in its concentration, aroma, body and general pleasure. It is unexpected, it’s unpredictable, it’s magic like no other drink I’ve come across. 

CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?

Sam: Maybe that more people 100 years ago in North Somerset weren’t planting perry pears?! That and the price point which the market tolerates is too low for handmade perry really. Many makers are cross subsidising with their cider, many makers are part time and so don’t rely on the income from Perry. I love affordable perry like any other drinker but it would be good if the income could pay a wage for the work and fund investment in orchards.

CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?

Sam: Perry and seafood. I like it all the time but September is a particularly good month to enjoy it I think with all of the best produce in the year available to eat.

CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?

Sam: I tell them about the trees – with girth and crowns like oaks, planted in a different time but still producing as they did for our forebears. I tell them that you drink a perry made from a tree planted when George I was on the throne. Perry is as close as you can get to time-travel. 

CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?   

Sam: From the few we’ve made I really like our second iteration of Perry Hill (yet to be released) it’s all tropical lilt type aroma on the nose so you’d expect acid bomb but it’s so soft and balanced on the tongue. There is a perry from a while ago by Tom Oliver which really got me into perry – it was sparkling, dry, delicate and just delicious. I have no recollection of variety or name but it would have been from around 2008 or 2009 I think. Another which springs to mind as seriously, aresstingly, extraordinarily good was the first (yellow) vintage of Waiting For The Miracle by Skyborry. That made me want to make perry for ourselves. My favourite producers are Tom O, Skyborry, Bartestree and Gregg’s Pit.



I haven’t previously done postscripts to the articles in this ‘Meet your (perry)maker’ series, but since this is the final instalment — and thus the last piece of our extended Perry Month coverage, a last word from me.

This series was intended to shine a spotlight on a few perry producers. My target was five, with ten representing the pinnacle of my expectations.

That we have been able to showcase twenty-two individual makers — plus extended spotlights on Germany’s 1785 and Austria’s Haselberger — is well beyond my wildest hopes, and owes entirely to people who were prepared, at their busiest time of year, to take the time to answer the questionnaire I sent with their insights, experience, wisdom and wit.

In the process we’ve met makers from California to Schefflenz, from Mostviertel to Domfront, from Ireland to the Finger Lakes and from Herefordshire to Liverpool. Makers with decades behind them and makers at the very start of their journey. We’ve talked blends, single varieties, methods, pears and blends. They have ennumerated the joys, trials, triumphs and occasional heartbreaks of perry, have cited their own favourites — themselves a dazzling range of producers — and shared their passion for the world’s most underrated drink, made from probably the world’s most remarkable agricultural plant.

It has been an absolute joy to edit this series, to read the responses when they came through, and to share them all with you. My understanding, knowledge and love of perry from around the world has been deepened immeasurably.

Perrymakers are a dauntless, optimistic, creative, innovative, industrious, dedicated and inspiring bunch. In their hands, this marvellous drink has a truly glimmering future. It has been a pleasure to share their stories with you here.

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In addition to my writing and editing with Cider Review I lead frequent talks and tastings and contribute to other drinks sites and magazines including jancisrobinson.com, Pellicle, Full Juice, Distilled and Burum Collective. @adamhwells on Instagram, @Adam_HWells on twitter.


  1. Really interested to read about hand-picking the fallen fruit. Even though we don’t graze our orchard, we’ve still tended to pick our cider apples BUT perhaps we should be letting everything fall? We’re due to visit Dorset Nectar at some point so perhaps we’ll get some insight into the harvesting process.


    • Interesting! I believe in Normandy there are appellation laws that demand all fruit be fallen, rather than picked from the tree – though that might only apply to Domfront (perry). Do let us know your findings at DN – and thanks so much for taking the time to leave such an intriguing comment. You’ll send me down a rabbit hole or two I dare say!
      Best wishes


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