Drink: give perry a chance
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Ever since I first came across perry in the early 1990s, I've
been fascinated by it, not least by the idea that perry trees can
grow to the size of an oak and still be productive when they are
200 years old - you plant pears for heirs, the saying goes. And I
remember the drink, too; quite different from cider, pure,
fragrant, much like a white wine.
Fast-forward 20 years, and we're in the middle of a pear cider
boom that has nothing to do with perry - it's made from dessert
pears or concentrate with added artificial flavours. Perry, by
contrast, has its own
PGIs (the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and
Worcestershire) and hundreds of specific perry pears with evocative
names such as Merrylegs, Painted Lady and Mumblehead (you can tell
how that last one came about…).
The start of the perry pear harvest is a good time to reacquaint
yourself with the real thing. I headed to the Bristol Cider Shop,
which always has a changing selection on tap, on this occasion the
fragrant McCrindle's Blakeney Red (6.2% abv), which you can
buy for £2 a pint. That works out at just £2.60 for a 750ml bottle
- cheaper than even the cheapest cut-price wine.
Perry tends to be sweeter than cider, but I think its delicate
flavours show best when it's dry. Established names to look out for
are Oliver's, Gwatkin
though I still have a soft spot for the first one I tasted, the
heady, organic Dunkertons Perry (£2.45 for 500ml, Abel
& Cole; £2.60,Vintage
Roots; 7.5% abv), which you could drink in place of a pinot
gris with spicy Asian food. Of the sweeter styles, try Lyne
Down Perry (£5 for 750ml, direct from
lynedowncider.co.uk; or £5.20, Bristol Cider
Shop), which smells of pears and honey and which you could
drink with a simple dessert such as pannacotta and raspberries.
Appropriate name, too.
Sparkling perries are a popular alternative to champagne at West
Country weddings (still perry or cider for the meal, sparkling for
the toast). James McCrindle again makes a delicious one
called Loiterpin (8.5% abv) for £14.95 from the Bristol Cider
Shop (10% off if you buy a case), or try Gregg's Pit's richer,
softer Herefordshire Perry (5.5%), made from Barnet, Brandy
and Winnals Longdon pears (greggs-pit.co.uk for
And if you haven't got access to a good cider shop?
Waitrose does the best own-label one I've tasted,
Vintage English Perry 2011 (8% abv): a 500ml bottle
costs just £1.95, though if you get your skates on,
it's on special offer at £1.46