Last year, coinciding with the time of the apple harvest, a meeting with the main European cider tourism destinations was held in the Basque Country to study the possibility of creating a joint network in order to promote the global culture of cider. As a result of that first meeting, the International Network of Cider Tourism and Culture Destinations Ciderlands was created.
The proposal arose from the Ciderzale consulting firm, specialized in the cider sector, and immediately obtained the support of Sagardoaren Lurraldea (the Basque Ciderland) from where the necessary means were set up to organize the meeting and to welcome delegates from all over Europe.
The idea received a positive response from 10 countries and regions with a deep-rooted cider culture: Hardanger (Norway), Mostviertel (Austria), Brittany (France), Herefordshire (Great Britain), Galicia (Spain), Asturias (Spain ), Hessen (Germany), Armagh (Northern Ireland) and Wales (Great Britain) and Basque Country (Spain/France).
This year, the Anual General Meeting will be held in Hereford, thanks to the efforts of the Herefordshire Cider Culture Network. Ciderlands is growing fast, and new guests have been invited to join the organization. In addition to the founding members, this time representatives from other cider producing areas of Great Britain like Kent and Cornwall will attend, as well as European cider tourism experts from Luxembourg and Normandy (France).
But the network is spreading beyond the European continent. Besides the delegates mentioned above, representatives from Hudson Valley (New York, United States) and Nagano Prefecture (Japan) will attend the anual general meeting. Therefore, it can be said that Ciderlands has gone around the world to finally land in Herefordshire.
The network seeks to promote travel and cultural exchanges between traditional and emerging cider regions, as well as to act as a cider tourism beacon for the world as a whole. Beyond the differences existing in the product, there is a close cultural relationship among the worldwide cider-producing countries. For this reason, as happens in other sectors, international cooperation is essential.
Comprising four days of activities across the county in peak harvest time, Ciderlands 2019 will offer an unparalleled showcase of the region’s proud cider heritage to the cider tourism professionals from throughout the network. In addition, a number of notable public events offer he opportunity to leave a legacy of celebrating the region’s unique cider culture within the local community.
Delegates will enjoy the full Herefordshire experience, with visits to classic country pubs like The Crown Inn (Woolhope) and The Yew Tree (Peterstow) and the opportunity to enjoy The Big Apple’s Harvestim festival, with traditional cidermaking and apple displays. The international representatives will celebrate the Ciderlands AGM in the Westons Cider Mill and they will also visit the medium scale cider maker Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry.
Crucially, Ciderlands provides an opportunity to remind Herefordians of cider’s great heritage as well as the role that cider continues to play in the county. A cider celebration open to the public will take place at The Cider Museum on Friday 11 October, where there will also be occasion to taste ciders from all over the world that delegates will bring in their suitcases. The Green Dragon Hotel will host a Cider Banquet on Saturday 12 October. On Sunday, delegates will enjoy a guided tour of the Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral to see the “Cider Bible".
To achieve this, the Hereford Cider Museum has joined forces with The Big Apple Association, the iconic Green Dragon Hotel, and tourism partners Rural Concierge and Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire. “Within the Ciderlands network, what stands out for me is how other countries with a strong cider heritage are proud to have cider at the heart of their regional identity,” said Elizabeth Pimblett, director of the Hereford Cider Museum. “And, if visitors are excited by that in one part of Europe, it would be wonderful to create links that will draw them to the others.”
Working alongside these organisations to bring this event to life are two of the world’s leading authorities on cider: Gabe Cook, aka The Ciderologist, and cider writer, journalist and producer, Susanna Forbes. Support from The Pippin Trust, the Three Counties Cider & Perry Association, the National Association of Cider Makers, Bulmers, Westons Cider, among others, will enable the conference to realise its vision.
FREE PUBLIC EVENT
During the public event at the Museum of Cider on Friday 11 October, the Three Counties Cider Bar will offer the local story while Ciderlands delegates will provide an international showcase of cider from their respective regions. The Museum's latest exhibition, The Art of Women in Cider, will be open.
Entertainment is headline by Whose Hands Are These, with Ross Cider's talented cider maker John Edwards on vocals and ukelele. London's urban cidery, Hawkes, will bring its mobile Txotx!, a tribute to the way of drinking Euskal Sagardoa (Basque natural cider) straight from the barrel. Representatives from Herefordshire CAMRA's Press2Pub initiative will be present, along with members of key orcharding groups.
"I hope that the legacy of this exciting gathering of cider lovers will be an annual public event like this at the museum celebrating our heritage with the very Herefordshire people who make it what it is," said the Museum of Cider's Elizabeth Pimblett.
Dignitaries will be joining delegates and others at The Green Dragon Hotel for the Cider Banquet in the evening on Saturday 12 October. Local ingredients form the bedrock of Chef Simon's approach. His seasonal-with-a-tweak menu centres around classics such as the flavourful cut of Hereford beef, feather blade, and apple & date pudding, before closing with Herefordshire cheese, apples and pears, all matched with local ciders and perries.
"The Green Dragon Hotel is very proud to be sponsoring the international Ciderlands conference" said the hotel's Christian Dangerfield. "It shines a spotlight on the wonderful cider production, culture and heritage of our beautiful county and forges international tourism connections which we hope will endure and grow for generations to come."
© Haritz Rodriguez, aka Ciderzale, is a Basque journalist, travel blogger and marketing consultant for the agri-food and tourism fields. He is in charge of the creation and coordination of Ciderlands and he runs the online cider, beer and wine shop Zukue. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.