The fertile lands of the Exe Valley have been home to apple orchards for centuries, but over the years, many have been neglected and their apples left to perish on the ground. It's good news then that some of those ancient orchards are now being restored and brought back to health by Find & Foster Fine Ciders.
Here, we chat with Mat and Polly Hilton, owners of Find & Foster, who tell the story behind their cider venture and what makes their cider stand out from the rest.
What gave you the idea to create Find & Foster?
We discovered that 90% of Devon’s traditional orchards had been lost since World War 2, and over 50% of the orchards remaining were in poor condition, largely because there's no incentive to manage them or replace fallen trees. We thought there was an opportunity there to rescue something really worth saving, so we embarked on a mission to find and foster those that remain.
FIND - A discovery of something valuable
FOSTER - To cultivate, nurture & encourage to grow
The apples in these orchards were left to rot on the ground year after year, yet they include some of the best cider apple varieties in the world, most of which are rare or on the verge of extinction. Through courses run by the Devon charities OrchardsLive and Orchard Link, we trained in all aspects of orchard management and with the help of family and friends, we now work with local orchard owners to help preserve their beautiful old orchards and turn all those apples into very special cider.
How is your cider different?
The orchards contain diverse, rare apple varieties local to the South West. We hand harvest to select only the best fruit, press in small batches and blend varieties meticulously to produce naturally well-balanced ciders. We produce two distinct styles: a naturally sweet, semi-sparkling Pétillant Naturel and a crisp, dry Méthode Traditionelle.
Our ciders are influenced by vintage variation, so no two years will taste the same.
What sort of ciders do you make?
We produce two distinct styles Pétillant Naturel and Méthode Traditionelle.
Pétillant Naturel is naturally sweet, with an intense apple flavour, it is bottled before the long, slow fermentation is complete to capture the tiny, natural bubbles which make it semi-sparkling. The wildly aromatic, intensely apple-y Pet Nats showcase the characteristics of the apple varieties that make them.
We use the same techniques used to produce the finest sparkling wines such as Champagne to create crisp, clean, dry, sparkling ciders that are excellent as an aperitif, perfect for celebrations or for pairing with foods such as seafood.
Pétillant naturel cider and Quicke's oak smoked cheddar
This cider pairs perfectly with our Oak Smoked Cheddar, the intense apple flavours cutting through the creaminess of the cheddar and refreshing the palate. Combines apple notes with smooth smokiness for a truly autumnal treat.
Méthode traditonelle cider and Quicke's goat's milk cheese
This golden cider has delicate apple notes which compliment the lightly almondy, nutty flavours in our Goat's Milk Cheese - the perfect combination for an interesting aperitif which captures the beautiful flavours of Devon.