Monday, 22 March 2010

Introducing... The Naked Guide to Cider

This week's Budget may well put a number of cider makers out of business - not the very very large companies of course, but the small producers who champion quality and distinctiveness. At their best, cider and perry are unique, characterful drinks, products made in particular places from particular fruit, by particular people.

Unfortunately governments work on the same scale as big businesses and tend to support them, rather than the small producer. In this instance, the health people are nagging the government to tax strong cider more heavily, in an effort to deter youngsters from drinking so much nasty white cider.

But raising the duty on strong cider will neither stop youngsters drinking nor have much effect on the companies that make white cider. They will either change the formula to bring the alcohol level below the cut-off point (probably 5.5% ABV) or make alcopops instead.

The only losers in this ill-conceived health crusade will be the artisan producers of cider and perry in Somerset, the Three Counties and elsewhere, whose undoctored, full juice drinks are naturally high in alcohol (though far less strong than wine, of course). Producers like Tom Oliver are respected the world over - but not in Whitehall.

British tourists love to drink sparkly French cider in Normandy and Brittany, and the French government recognises this. Whatever its other faults, it appreciates that fine, locally-produced food and drink attracts tourists, and it administers its duty regime accordingly.

The UK Government, on the other hand, sees only the shortest possible view: a nice headline about binge drinking and a few more quid in the coffers - until the cider makers give up and do something else.

So what better time to announce the imminent arrival (well, sort of - it's out in September) of The Naked Guide to Cider? A guide book, and more. Learn how to make your own cider and how to support the best producers of cider and perry - after this week, they're probably going to need it.

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