In the second of our blog focuses on producers that we have had the pleasure of partnering up with on products, the spotlight is on Kent’s original commercial vineyards, Biddenden, which have produced award-winning wines, ciders and fruit juices for over 40 years. (http://biddendenvineyards.com)
Their incredible Special Reserve Cider (left), matured in oak casks for 18 months, is the not so secret ingredient in the informatively named Special Reserve Cider Fudge: one of nine booze-infused fudges in our new Mixology Confection selection. Mixology is a celebration of artisan producers with the same values and standards as us, including local micro-distilleries, vineyards and liqueur producers.
Family run, the Biddenden estate’s 40 acres are run by third and fourth generation Barnes’ – namely Julian and his son Tom. It started as an apple orchard, a corner of which was turned into a single estate vineyard in 1969, after Mrs Barnes listened to a feature on English viticulture on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. The vineyards now cover 23 acres, eleven different grapes and produce 80,000 bottles of red, white, rose and Sparkling English per year; yet are still maintained by hand.
Biddenden’s apple ‘core’ remains strong, however, as the home of Strong Kentish Ciders – nine of them crafted using the Barnes’ family recipe, perfected over the last 40 years. All their ciders are made from the juice of carefully selected culinary and dessert apples – all Kent sourced – giving the ciders a smoother, stronger, more wine like style. The Biddenden Special Reserve cider in our Mixology Confection is a particularly exquisite, dark, rich cider. A far cry from cider’s pre-Roman invasion origins, when it would have been made with sour, wild ‘crab’ apples.
Glossing over the women, the apple growing heritage of Kent itself, which Biddenden draw on and continue to develop, dates back to Henry VIII’s time and gave it the ‘Garden of England’ moniker, as the source of fruit for London finest tables. It is now also the custodian of the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale (http://www.brogdalecollections.org), which hosts a staggering 2,200 varieties of apple, 550 of pears, 285 cherry types and 337 of plum: the largest collection of fruit varieties on a single site in the world.
It always warms the cockles of our hearts to recognise what a rich, historic, yet thriving, progressive and innovative foodie community we are a part of here in Kent and Julian Barnes, Managing Director of Biddenden Vineyards, clearly feels similarly: “Working with local producers is close to the heart of our business and our collaboration with Fudge Kitchen for the Mixology Collection is a demonstration of how incredible Kent is when it comes to producing top quality, innovative and tasty produce.”
We’ll drink to that.