It's not often something genuinely different comes along in drinks publishing. Either the route taken is already well-worn, or the subject matter has had more than a few outings.
Cue Felix Nash with Fine Cider, Understanding the World of Fine, Natural Cider. For the first time, cider is given the sort of treatment normally reserved for wine. That's not to negate the quaffable mainstream sector, but to place ingredients – the apples and pears – and the influence of nature and the cidermaking community centre stage. To do this, Nash explores the craft from the point of view of the artisan cidermaker.
First we start where Nash began: driving down rural lanes in Herefordshire intrigued by the unfolding orchard patchwork. Nash is on his way to visit Tom Oliver to taste the first cider the pair have made together. For Nash is also the founder of The Fine Cider Company, and Oliver is one of a dozen or so producers whose wares Nash shares with discerning restaurants and pubs throughout the UK.
Nash begins the cider story proper with a dose of history, taking us from Adam and Eve to the challenges of the present day. Along the way, we hear about the first apple rock stars, Herefordshire Redstreak and Foxwhelp, the role of Forest of Dean glassmakers in the story of champagne, and fascinating gems such as apples being the original baubles on Christmas trees.
Chapters follow on cider apple varieties and the challenge that is perry, and the effect of seasons and location on the final cider. Nash writes as he speaks, his eloquent intensity, effortlessly mixing background information with facts and figures.
The largest chapter is on cider styles. Here Nash niftily explores the variations possible via the lens of the production choices cidermakers need to take.
Producer case studies feature alongside benchmark ciders and perries. The broad principles of food pairing are presented alongside serving temperature and stemware tips, plus a few of Nash's favourite matches from the restaurants and bars he works with.
Finally, there's a look to the future, where Nash imagines cider bars with interesting lists, restaurants lists with large bottles poured by the glass, and carafes being filled with cider from the tap. 'I think cider has a most wonderful opportunity to evolve its own niche in a flourishing future,' he says.
With advocates such as him and books such as this, this vision is one step closer to reality.