Tell us a little about how Gospel Green began...
Gospel Green was established by James and Cathy Lane in 1990. Cathy had never been a fan of traditional West Country cider and James wanted to convince her he could make something sophisticated and delicate, so he set about creating Gospel Green. What resulted was a sparkling and sophisticated cider made from cooking and dessert apples. It’s more akin to a sparkling wine than a cider.
I started enjoying Gospel Green around 2002 and instantly fell in love with the drink. Ever since then, I would drop by whenever passing James and Cathy in West Sussex and pick up a case or two. In such a visit, in 2016, I called in and ended up buying the business. I liked it SO much I bought the company!
We understand you already had a family connection to the drinks industry?
My grandfather on my dad’s side was chairman of the family drinks firm, Teacher’s Whisky. Throughout my childhood, there was always something going on in the background relating to Teacher’s as my uncle continued on the family tradition by working there. When at university, I headed off to work for Teacher’s Australian distributor in Sydney and this further fuelled my desire to one day own a drinks firm. Finally, this came true in 2016 with my taking over the mantle of Gospel Green.
How do you describe ‘traditional method’ cider to someone who has never tried it?
Gospel Green makes cider which is light and delicate with characteristics more akin to Champagne and sparkling wine than your typical ciders. We use the finest handpicked English apples and all our cider is made with 100% juice. I bet you didn’t know that in the UK, cider can be made with as little as 35% apple juice - and concentrate at that! So what we do is special, pure and quintessentially English.
Using the ‘Champagne method’ or ‘traditional method’ as some call it sees our production process take up to 24 months. As they say, all good things come to those who wait.
Do you have to use a particular type of apples and do the flavours change with each vintage as they might with wine?
We use a blend of cooking and eating apples which has been perfected over close to 30 years. All are handpicked and they are the finest we can lay our hands on. Varieties such as Bramley, Braeburn and Cox are used, which will be familiar to your readers. We also splice in other varieties to give Gospel Green a clean, crisp taste.
As with wine, we do have flavour and characteristic changes across the vintages due to the ‘terroir’ of the orchards. We are all about that and support the subtle nuances each vintage gives us annually.
What are your proudest achievements so far with Gospel Green?
I am personally extremely proud of the fact that James and Cathy entrusted me with Gospel Green, having built a loyal following over the years. Additionally, I am very proud of all the people who have been involved in this journey; team work has made the dream work as they say! Oh, and being stocked in some fab places in my old home town of Glasgow brings a smile to my face.
How have things changed since you took over?
Well, gosh, we have done a lot. First of all we had to set about making the 2016 Vintage. This was quite a challenge both logistically and technically as we had relocated to the Blackmoor Estate in Hampshire. Plus increasing volume brought its own set of fun and games. Over and above that I rebranded and updated the look and feel of Gospel Green and we now have a stunning set of labels and a wonderful and informative website. Social media plays a big role, so we make sure there are suitable updates etc there.
What has not changed are the fundamentals of Gospel Green - the quality of apples and the process we use to make our ‘Champagne cider’. We will never compromise on quality.
Another change from increased production is that we now serve a wider geographic area of distribution. Gospel Green cider is now available from Glasgow all the way down to Brighton and in between.
Tell us a little about what you most love about being based in the South Downs...
We are incredibly lucky to have our base on the Blackmoor Estate. Not only do we have a fabulous working environment, but we are less than a mile from the beautiful orchards.
Are there any local food and drink businesses you’d particularly recommend?
Applegarth Farm in Grayshott is fantastic. Their ethos is about seasonal and local produce and they have a cookery school as well as a wonderful farm shop and restaurant. It’s well worth a visit. Hawkins Brothers, who are based at Secretts in Milford, provide the best that English Fizz can offer! Then there’s Woolmer Service Station at Bordon – yes, really! It’s family owned, they have a fabulous selection of wines, ciders and beers as well as a COOK freezer, which is always useful after a long day at work!
Finally, what’s next for Gospel Green?
2020 is Gospel Green’s 30th birthday! Collaborations to follow. Watch this space...