Mark and Sharon Venton moved to their cottage in Clyst St Lawrence, East Devon in 2006 and upon clearing their overgrown grounds they uncovered a derelict 100 year old apple orchard. In their first season, rather than waste the apples, they borrowed a small hand-turned crusher and basket press making 25 gallons of Cyder to save as much fruit as possible from going to waste.
Although complete novices, they were inspired and three years later Mark built a new twin screw oak press using reclaimed Victorian press screws which could hold around 1 tonne of apples. Using the traditional Devon method of pressing apples between layers of barley straw and then fermenting in oak barrels, they produced 1,000 gallons and won the 2009 and 2010 Devon County Show first prize in the Dry Farmhouse Cider class. This caught the attention of farm shops, pubs, festivals and distributors who wanted to try it and so a small business was born.
Today, annual production is around 6,000 gallons and the Cyder is sent all over the UK, plus occasionally abroad. The original equipment is still used but supplemented today with a belt press, washer elevator mill and large storage tanks. Traditional methods of production are still used with wild yeast fermentations of fresh pressed whole apple juice.
Apples are sourced from home and nearby orchards, all within 4 miles and many of which originally supplied Whiteway’s Devon Cyder, once the largest producer in the UK, with the biggest collection of orchards in the world in the first half of the 20th century.
Many awards have been won over the years and in June 2016 at The British Cider Championships held at The Royal Bath & West Show, Venton's won Gold Medals, as well as Reserve Champion in the dry farmhouse cider class for ‘Skippy’s Scrumpy’. In 2019 Gold medals were won at all three South West County Shows including ‘Sweet Maid In Devon’ - Devon County Show, Royal Cornwall Show and Royal Bath & West Show. To top it off - 2019 CAMRA Gold Medal and South West Cider of The Year for ‘Thirst Responder’ medium-dry and the official Devon Air Ambulance Trust Cider from which 10p a pint goes back to DAAT.
Overall, Venton’s artisan approach places more emphasis on consistent quality rather than consistent flavour, always striving to make the best from what is available year on year. Using unsprayed heritage cider apples, wild yeasts and the natural sugars from a wide variety of apples, the resulting whole juice Real Cyder is as natural as it gets. Any excess Cyder is turned into Apple Cyder Vinegar and the pressed apple pomace is fed to livestock so nothing goes to waste.