Cidermaker scoops Best Drinks Producer award

One of Herefordshire’s newer cider producers, Once Upon a Tree, has won this year’s BBC Food & Farming Awards Best Drinks Producer. Simon Day’s friendly orchard-based set-up beat off tough competition from London’s Kernel Brewery  and the boutique Kilchoman Whisky.

Once Upon a Tree - Simon day

It was “very tight”, admitted judge Pete Brown. For the panel, “It was the full story” that edged it. “Everything from the way the orchard is planted and tended, to the production process, to the fabulous drinks themselves and how they help redefine cider, and pitch it as a perfect partner to food,” said Pete, who at the moment is in the midst of writing a major book on cider himself.

Established in 2008, Once Upon a Tree offers a superlative range of ciders and perries, plus a world class ice cider and perry. Simon is a second generation drinks producer, his father, Tom, has been instrumental in establishing Three Choirs Vineyard. Indeed, the wine influence has not totally left the scene, since Simon uses some of its techniques in his cider making.

“It is slowly sinking in,” said a rather dazed Simon this morning. “We're so delighted that the judges understood our ethos and passion in what we are trying to achieve, both for ourselves and for true, real cider, both in Herefordshire and the rest of Britain!”

A favourite, Once Upon a Tree offers a warm welcome to visitors, with its cosy wooden shop right by the orchard, and its engaging set of activities – poetry readings in the orchard anyone?

And just last month it opened its Three Counties Cider Shop in the centre of Ledbury. Offering a range of ciders and perries from this orchard heartland, including a dozen on draught. The judges liked the way the shop “champions not just their product but the whole region and its cider identity,” said Pete. “Just lovely!”

Open Tuesday to Saturday, I’m thinking it won’t just be the locals that are popping in.


You can hear more about the winners in the forthcoming BBC Food programme, Friday midday, and again on iPlayer