Time to work up a thirst - this year's cider apple harvest set to be a corker
Britain's apple-growers and cider-makers are toasting an exceptional apple growing season with many predicing the best harvest in a decade.
The weather over the past year has created the ideal conditions for a tasty, bumper apple crop according to fruit production experts.
Orchards, which flowered two weeks late this year, are showing a heavier crop than normal – heralding top quality fruit come harvest time.
Last year's bad weather was disastrous for the cider industry as cold temperatures and record-breaking rainfall devastated crops and left the harvest 30 % down.
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But it is believed 2013 will bring the best cider output in the UK for ten years.
According to experts from the Royal Horticultural Society, this is is thanks to a prolonged cold snap early on which helped trees rest and the sunny weather which enabled the fruit to to grow and develop flavour.
Neil MacDonald, co-founder of the award-winning Somerset cider brand Orchard Pig, of Glastonbury, also runs Orchard Groundcare which looks after around 850 acres of Somerset Cider Orchards.
He said he is delighted with the prospects for this year's crops.
"Here at Orchard Pig, at the heart of Somerset cider country, it looks like this year's harvest will be something to oink about," he said "The blossom was very good and with the spell of wet, then sunny, then wet, then sunny, weather. It has made for a very healthy, happy and juicy crop.
"A range of bitter and sweet cider apples are grown across our orchards, with traditional varieties such as Kingston Blacks, Yarlington Mills, Harry Masters Jerseys, Stembridge Clusters, Fill barrels and Slap My Girdle to name but a few, as well as the more modern varieties such as Dabinett and Browns.
"Our desert fruit at West Bradley, the home of Orchard Pig, is looking excellent and with some late summer sunshine it should help to turn the sugars in the apples producing some real taste and textures to this year's crop"
He described the success of this year's crop as a "massive relief".
He said: "Last year was worrying – it started with a poor blossom and got worse from there. Around 30 per cent of crop was destroyed.
"Frankly, it was pretty depressing, but the plus side of it all was that the trees got a year of rest and really benefited from it.
"In the spring the trees in our orchards have blossomed beautifully.
"It means this year is looking exceedingly promising. We're expecting a terrific crop.
"I feel like skipping through the orchards, they look that beautiful. It's an extremely exciting time."
Jim Arbury, RHS fruit specialist at the RHS Wisley garden in Surrey, said: "Like all fruits, apples need sunshine if they are going to grow and develop with a good flavour.
"In the spring, crops were lagging up to a month behind but a sudden burst of sunshine in the prime ripening season has helped the apples gain some ground as well as helping them ripen beautifully.
"This year's crop should have an excellent flavour."
Cider drinking in Britain is on the increase with around 1.5 billion pints downed each year.
The industry is worth £3 billion and rising and cider and perry account for nine per cent of all alcohol consumed nationally.
Just ten years ago the cider industry used 110,000 tonnes of UK-grown apples but now the figure has more than doubled to 250,000 tonnes.
There are around 480 cider-makers across the country and the traditional trade plays a crucial role in the UK's rural economy and communities.
Paul Bartlett, chairman of the National Association of Cider Makers, said: "We certainly hope to make up for last year when the crop was 30 per cent down.
"If we could set a new record – which would mean over 250,000 tonnes of UK fruit – that would be fantastic."
When spring arrived cooler nights caused heavy dew before giving way to hot days, which has helped give apples their rosy blush.
The RHS has predicted the homegrown harvest will start to flood into shops in the next few weeks.