It’s a well-known fact all around the world that Somerset is the best cidermaking county with a long and fruitful (if you’ll pardon the pun) tradition. But what makes Somerset the perfect place to craft the perfect pint? David Sheppy, Master of Cider, says it’s all about the countryside itself.
“The climate is perfect for growing the best bittersweet cider apples that make truly great cider,” David explains. “Here in Somerset we have the right amount of rain and the right amount of sunshine to ensure a bumper crop.”
There’s also the terrain itself. Here on the outskirts of Taunton, the Sheppy’s 90 acres of prime cidermaking orchards are perfectly sheltered against destructive winds by the Blackdown Hills.
“Our Somerset soil, terrain and altitude are all perfect for growing strong and fruitful apple trees,” Louisa Sheppy, director, adds. “Heavy soil and the perfect altitude mean sturdy foundations for strong trees.”
Somerset’s Fruitful History
Did you know: historically many rural farms would pay their farm workers in cider at the end of a long day of working in the fields. That’s partly why cider has such a deep-rooted tradition in farming communities.
It was in the 18th century that Somerset apples were placed on the map with the critical acclaim for the now famous Kingston Black cider apple variety. This bittersharp variety was discovered just outside Taunton, close by the Sheppy’s cider orchards, which gave rise to its alternative name ‘Taunton Black’. Somerset is also proud to lay claim to another famous cider apple, the Dabinett. This commercially successful apple was discovered as a seedling by William Dabinett in South Somerset where families, and many cider apple trees, still bear his name. To this day, the Sheppy’s Kingston Black cider and Sheppy’s Dabinett Ciders are award-winning examples of the very best of Somerset cider apples.
Sheppys in Somerset
With a history spanning six generations and over 200 years, Sheppy's Cider is one of the longest established family cider companies in the UK. In the late 18th century John Shepson (who later changed his name to Sheppy) was producing his fine ciders, which were used for home consumption, as well as a payment to his farm staff. The cider farm was then at Iwood Manor, Congresbury, near Bristol, the original home of the Sheppy family. In 1916 James Sheppy, (John Shepson's great grandson) bought Three Bridges Farm for his son Stanley, which remains the home of Sheppy's Cider to this day. You can read more about the Sheppy family history here.
Looking to the future
Two centuries later, we’re still championing the same methods to make our cider that were used generations ago, assisted by the very best of modern technology. From apple to bottle, our Master of Cider David Sheppy is involved with every drop of cider that bears the Sheppy's name. Experience, instinct and knowledge are key to all our ciders and nothing leaves the family farm in Somerset without David Sheppy’s signature on it - it's his personal guarantee of quality and provenance.
Every drop is genuinely crafted using a mixture of the finest home grown and locally sourced apples and naturally occurring wild yeasts. We are proud to say that we grow, harvest, press, ferment, mature and bottle our cider here in Somerset and we only ever use pure apple juice – we never use concentrate.
There is no secret recipe. It's simply about the experience and craftsmanship that has come from 200 years of knowledge and cider making, passed down through six generations of Masters of Cider.
Our recent development is our visitor centre - Sheppy’s House of Cider - which is proudly flying the flag for cider and authentic Somerset produce. With a farm shop, deli, butcher’s counter, restaurant, bar and rural life museum as well as over 90 acres of orchards to explore, it’s become a tourist destination like no other.