We could hardly believe our luck in the fall of 2015, when we first discovered these fantastic little clusters of wild perry pears. Up on the ridge, behind the old homestead, soaring high above any of the other fruit trees there it was – an old grove clustered together beside the tangled, rusted remains of a post and wire fence, and what would have been the old barnyard.
Guessing by the height of them we estimate they must be at least 60 years old. Jackpot! Perry pears are endearingly known amongst orchardists and cidermakers alike, to be something you plant not for yourself – but for your heirs, as they take years, sometimes decades before they begin to fruit.
The origin of these pears is as yet unknown, were they at one point cultivated, or are they just naturalized wildings? Most likely, they feral descendants of a European cultivar – either pyrus communis or pyraster, both varieties are often found naturalized in hedgerows and open woodlands.
Either way, they are an interesting tree. Similar to apples, wild pears are a member of the Rosaceae family, but typically produce clusters of small 2-4cm pears that are often quite hard until they ripen mid-autumn.
When we came upon them in early November, most except the highest clusters had already fallen to the ground. Upon tasting them we were surprised to discover how sweet they actually are – full of true pear flavor, with slightly spicy finish. Followed by the hit of sweetness, there’s an element of bitterness and the sort of astringency that makes your mouth feel as though its been turned inside out. Sounds terrible I know, but this was an exciting revelation as all of these characteristics are what make for an excellent perry. Always having had a soft spot for cider’s more sophisticated cousin, we just knew we had to see what they would become with the help of the transformative powers of fermentation.
It was another full year before we could harvest these beauties again, which we did in the fall of 2016 to product our first vintage. The pears were carefully gathered late October, once a couple of frosts had hit the trees. There was some speculation as to how the pears would press – most dessert pears are finicky and labour intensive, their soft pulp gumming up the press and definitely not the presser’s favorite! But their dry and gritty texture worked beautifully on the rack and cloth press, and once pressed the juice was thick and a deep golden hue, you could almost taste the rich pear flavor just looking at it.
We then let it ferment slowly over the next 4 months, and aged another 4 months on the lees to allow the flavours and textures to develop fully.
My friends, let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Our 2016 Old Orchard Perry is fragrant and floral, delicate and refined when compared to cider - with true pear aroma and a hint of spice. Produced using the ‘methode traditionelle’ – whereby we add a dosage with a little yeast to the finished perry and allow it to undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle to create natural fine carbonation. The resulting tipple is more comparable to a brut sparkling wine or champagne with wonderful soft tiny bubbles that linger.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Now available in our online shop!