South West of England Cidermakers’ Association

Supporting the region’s growers and makers

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SWECA visits West Bradley

On 1 March a party of SWECA members ( South West Cidermakers Association) visited West Bradley Orchards.

The tour was guided by Neil Macdonald from Orchard Pig Ground Force and Edward Clifton- Brown, owner of West Bradley Orchards.  Robert Fouvargue, Agronomist with Pearce Seeds, was also on hand to answer questions.

Neil Macdonald said “ We were very pleased that such a large number of SWECA members came to visit us.  We have been growing dessert apples on a wire system for some time and we wanted to share our thoughts on how this system could be adapted to grow cider fruit.”

John Thatcher, from Thatcher’s Cider, has been growing cider apples on a similar system for some time and was very enthusiastic and encouraging.  “It is the way forward, of that I have no doubt” he said.

HMRC policy on the use of wooden casks

Members may be aware that a misunderstanding among cider makers has recently arisen (Feb 2012) as to the HMRC policy view of the use of wooden casks or other wooden vessels for making, storing and distributing cider and perry.  On checking, the HMRC view is unchanged:  wooden vessels are, of themselves, acceptable as containers and may be used without threatening the excise duty classification of cider and perry. 

However, their use and the effect they may have on a cider, even though that effect might be unintended and indirect, must still conform to the overarching condition in UK primary law (Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979, Sn 1(6)):

‘“Cider” means cider (or perry)...   ...without the addition at any time of any alcoholic liquor or of any liquor or substance which communicates colour or flavour other than such as the Commissioners may allow as appearing to them to be necessary to make cider (or perry).’ 

Therefore any such addition that might derive from the wood of which the vessel is made or from any previous use of the vessel would exclude the product from the cider definition and render it ‘made wine’.   Clearly this can be a subjective judgement but HMRC will look first for any increase in ABV (which might be in excess of their rule of thumb of 0.1%ABV and brought about by a cider leaching residual alcohol from a vessel previously used to contain a distilled alcohol or spirit) and then for change in flavour or colour of the cider beyond what might reasonably be expected to result from the maturation of the cider in wood.  Remember also that Notice 162, Sn 25 requires that:

‘colourings and other substances which may impart colour may only be used to produce cider or perry in the colour range – straw/gold/golden brown.’

Members will be aware that no duty exemption status exists for made wine producers and all made wine produced for sale is liable to wine duty.

Helping the region’s growers and makers

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