Perry is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented pears, similar to
the way cider is made from apples. It has been common for centuries in
England, particularly in the
Three Counties (Gloucestershire,
Herefordshire and Worcestershire); it is also made in parts of South
Wales and France, especially
Normandy and Anjou.
A traditional perry (poiré in French) bottled under cork and cage
In more recent years, commercial perry has also been referred to as
"pear cider", but some organisations (such as CAMRA) do not accept
this as a name for the traditional drink. The National Association
Cider Makers, on the other hand, disagrees, insisting that the
terms perry and pear cider are interchangeable. An over twenty-fold
increase of sales of industrially manufactured "pear cider" produced
from often imported concentrate makes the matter especially
1.2 Orchard management and harvesting
1.3 Perry-making technique
2.1 Modern commercial perries
2.2 Decline and revival of traditional perry
4 Outside England, Wales and Normandy
4.1 In Australia
4.2 In Sweden
4.3 In the United States
4.4 In New Zealand
4.5 In Japan
5 See also
7 External links
Perry pears are thought to be descended from wild hybrids, known as
wildings, between the cultivated pear
Pyrus communis subsp. communis
and the now-rare wild pear pyrus communis subsp. pyraster. The
cultivated pear p. communis was brought to northern Europe by the
Romans. In the fourth century CE
Saint Jerome referred to perry as
piracium. Wild pear hybrids were, over time, selected locally for
desirable qualities and by the 1800s, many regional varieties had been
Perry pears growing at Dyrham Park.
The majority of perry pear varieties in the UK originate from the
counties of Gloucestershire,
Worcestershire in the
west of England; perry from these counties made from traditional
recipes now forms a
European Union Protected Geographical Indication.
Of these perry pear varieties, most originate in parishes around May
Hill on the Gloucestershire/
Herefordshire border. The standard
reference work on perry pears was published in 1963 by the Long Ashton
Research Station; since then many varieties have become critically
endangered or lost. There were over 100 varieties, known by over 200
local names, in
Gloucestershire alone. These local pears are
particularly known for their picturesque names, such as the various
"Huffcap" varieties ('Hendre Huffcap', 'Red Huffcap', 'Black Huffcap',
all having an elliptical shape), those named for the effects of their
product ('Merrylegs', 'Mumblehead'), pears commemorating an individual
('Stinking Bishop', named for the man who first grew it, or 'Judge
Amphlett', named for Assizes court judge Richard Amphlett), or those
named for the place they grew ('
Hartpury Green', '
Bartestree Squash'). The perry makers of
Normandy grew their own
distinctive varieties such as Plant de Blanc, Antricotin and Fausset;
the perry of Domfront, which has been recognised with AOC status since
2002 and PDO status since 2006, must be made with a minimum of 40%
Plant de Blanc.
Pear cultivars used for perry-making tend to be small in size,
turbinate or pyriform in shape, and too astringent for culinary
use. Specific perry pear cultivars are regularly used to make
single variety perries: this was formerly the usual practice in
traditional perry making, meaning that in the past each parish would
have produced its own characteristic and distinctive perries due to
the very restricted distribution of many varieties. Blended
perries, made from the juice of several varieties, were traditionally
disregarded as they tended to throw a haze, though in modern
commercial production this is overcome with filtration and use of a
Good perry pears should have higher concentrations of tannins, acids,
and other phenolic compounds. Some of the pears considered to
produce consistently excellent perry include the Barland, Brandy,
Thorn, and Yellow Huffcap cultivars. Compared to cider apples,
perry pears have fewer volatile components and consequently fewer
aromatics in the finished product. Their tannin profile is very
different to that of cider apples, with a predominance of astringent
over bitter flavours. They do, however, contain a high concentration
of deca-2,4-dienoate, a group of esters that affords them their
prominent pear aroma. Another important attribute of perry pears
that distinguishes them from cider apples is their relatively higher
content ratio of sorbitol to other sugars, such as fructose. Because
sorbitol is not readily fermented by yeast, it is not converted to
ethanol, and perry therefore tends to have more residual sugar than
cider produced from the fermentation of apples. In addition to
producing a sweeter beverage, sorbitol also contributes to increased
body and a softer mouthfeel in the finished perry. Compared to
apples, pear pressing is made more difficult by the additional
presence of specialized cells known as sclereids, which have thick
cell walls that provide extra support and strength to the pear
tissue. Because of this inherent perry pear attribute, the
addition of enzymes and pressing aids is a commonly used practice for
improving perry production.
Orchard management and harvesting
Mature perry pear orchard at Wick Court. As usual in traditional perry
orchards, the trees are of extremely large size.
While cultivation of pears has been to some extent modernised, they
remain a difficult crop to grow.
Perry pear trees can live to a great
age, and can be fully productive for 250 years.
Pear trees, both
domestic and perry varieties, grow incredibly slowly, taking up to, if
not over, a decade before they bear enough fruit for harvest. They
also grow to a considerable height and can have very large canopies;
the largest recorded, a tree at
Holme Lacy which still partly
survives, covered three quarters of an acre and yielded a crop of
5–7 tons in 1790. Given the long maturing period of pear trees,
they can be difficult to manage against diseases. Their size makes it
difficult to apply pesticides, which makes preventing fire blight, a
disease caused by the bacterium erwinia amylovora that pears are even
more susceptible to than cider apples, quite challenging. These
difficulties, along with demand for perry pears having (until
recently) taken a decline, have prompted a national collection of
perry pear cultivars to be gathered, housed, and cared for at the
Three Counties Agricultural Showground at Malvern in Worcestershire,
UK to maintain genetic resources, which has now become the
Pear Centre. Similar germplasm repositories can be
found at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis,
There are also key differences between cider and perry production in
the harvesting and growing process.
Perry trees famously take more
time to mature than cider trees. While cider trees may come to bear
fruit in three to five years, traditionally managed perry trees
typically take much longer, so much so that people say that you plant
"pears for your heirs".
Even when fully grown, pear trees bear less fruit than apples, which
is one reason that perry is less common than cider. When it comes
time to harvest, pears should be picked before they are ripe and then
left to ripen indoors, while apples should be allowed to ripen on the
tree. Both apples and pears suffer from fire blight, which can
devastate entire orchards, but pears are also susceptible to pear
psylla (also known as psylla pyri). These insects kill the entire
pear tree and are very resistant to insecticide, making them a severe
problem for pear orchards. Another added complication is that
while apples are often harvested mechanically, pears must be harvested
by hand, greatly increasing the time and cost of harvesting.
Quern for making perry and cider at Hellens, Herefordshire, where a
large orchard was planted to commemorate the coronation of Queen Anne;
avenues of perry pears from it still survive. The varieties Hellens
Hellens Green were named after the house.
Traditional perry making is broadly similar to traditional cider
making, in that the fruit is picked, crushed, and pressed to extract
the juice, which is then fermented using the wild yeasts found on the
fruit's skin. Traditional perry making employed querns and a rack and
cloth press, in which the pulp is wrapped in cloth before being
squeezed with a press. Modern perry production can use a belt
press, which is much more efficient for pressing fruit. It works
by sending the fruit down a conveyor belt, on which it is then pressed
by rollers. The principal differences between perry and cider
production are that pears must be left for a period to mature after
picking, and the pomace must be left to stand after initial crushing
to lose tannins, a process analogous to wine maceration.
Additionally, because of the variation in hardness of the fruit,
it can be more difficult to determine if a pear is ready for pressing
than an apple. There are also key chemical compositional
differences between apples and pears; these factors play a crucial
role in pre-fermentation and fermentation decisions for perry
A diagram of a belt press
Compared to most apples, pears tend to have more sugar and total
phenolic compounds. The main sugars in perry pears are glucose (192
-284 mg/L), xylose (140-176 mg/g), and galacturonic acid (108-118
mg/g). Types of sugar that are present in the juice play an important
role in yeast activity and determine the success of fermentation
Unlike the juice of apples, pear juice contains significant quantities
of unfermentable sugar alcohols, particularly sorbitol. The
presence of sorbitol can give perry a residual sweetness, in addition
to a mild laxative effect.
Pear juices contain rather low levels
of amino acids, sources of nitrogen such as aspargine, aspartic acid
and glutamic acid.
After initial fermentation, many perries go through malolactic
fermentation. On average, compared to apples, pears have higher levels
of titrable acidity, most of it being citric acid. In environments
with high levels of malic acid, such as grape must in winemaking,
malolactic fermentation bacteria convert malic acid to lactic acid,
reducing the perception of acidity and increasing complexity of
flavour. However, if high levels of citric acid are present, as in
pear pomace, malolactic fermentation bacteria catabolyse citric acid
to acetic acid and oxaloacetic acid, instead of lactic acid. This
results in a floral, citrus-like aroma in the final product, lacking
the diacethyl odour typical for most products that have undergone a
The earliest known reference to fermented alcoholic drinks being made
from pears is found in Pliny, but perry making seems to have
become well established in what is today
France following the collapse
of the Roman empire; references to perry making in its later heartland
England do not appear before the Norman Conquest. In the medieval
France retained its association with pear growing, and the
majority of pears consumed in
England were in fact imported from
By the sixteenth and seventeenth century, however, perry making had
become well established in the west of England, where the climate and
soil was especially suitable for pear cultivation. In the three
counties of Worcestershire,
particular, as well as in
Monmouthshire across the Welsh border, it
was found that perry pears grew well in conditions where cider apple
trees would not. Smaller amounts were also produced in other
cider-producing areas such as Somerset.
Perry may have grown in
popularity after the English Civil War, when the large numbers of
soldiers billeted in the
Three Counties became acquainted with it,
and reached a zenith of popularity during the eighteenth century, when
intermittent conflicts with
France made the importing of wine
difficult. Many farms and estates had their own orchards, and many
varieties of pear developed that were unique to particular parishes or
Whereas perry in
England remained an overwhelmingly dry, still drink
served from the cask,
Normandy perry (poiré) developed a
bottle-fermented, sparkling style with a good deal of sweetness.
Modern commercial perries
The production of traditional perry began to decline during the 20th
century, in part due to changing farming practices – perry pears
could be difficult and labour-intensive to crop, and orchards took
many years to mature. The industry was, however, to a certain degree
revived by modern commercial perry making techniques, developed by
Francis Showering of the firm Showerings of Shepton Mallet, Somerset,
in the creation of their sparkling branded perry Babycham.
Babycham, the first mass-produced branded perry, was developed by
Showering from application of the Long Ashton Institute's research,
and was formerly produced from authentic perry pears, though today it
is produced from concentrate, the firm's pear orchards having now been
dug up. Aimed at the female drinker at a time when wine was not
commonly available in UK pubs,
Babycham was sold in miniature
Champagne-style bottles; the drink was for many years a strong seller
and made a fortune for the Showering family. A competing brand of
commercial perry, Lambrini, is manufactured in
Liverpool by Halewood
International. The Irish drinks company Cantrell and Cochrane, Plc
(C&C), more famous for its
Bulmers ciders, launched a
similar light perry, Ritz, in 1986.
Like commercial lager and commercial cider, commercial perry is highly
standardised, and today often contains large quantities of cereal
adjuncts such as corn syrup or invert sugar. It is
also generally of lower strength, and sweeter, than traditional perry,
and is artificially carbonated to give a sparkling finish.[citation
needed] Unlike traditional perry, its manufacture guarantees a
consistent product: the nature of perry pears means that it is very
difficult to produce traditional perry in commercial quantities.
Traditional perry was overwhelmingly a drink made on farms for home
consumption, or to sell in small quantities either at the farm gate or
to local inns.
Decline and revival of traditional perry
Both English perry making, and the orchards that supplied it, suffered
a catastrophic decline in the second half of the 20th century as a
result of changing tastes and agricultural practices (in South
Gloucestershire alone, an estimated 90% of orchards were lost in the
last 75 years). Many pear orchards were also lost to Fire blight
in the 1970s and 1980s. As well as the clearing of orchards, the
decline of day labouring on farms meant that the manpower to harvest
perry pears – as well as its traditional consumers – disappeared.
It also lost popularity due to makers turning to dessert or general
purpose pears in its manufacture rather than perry pears, resulting in
a thin and tasteless product. In the UK prior to 2007, the small
amounts of traditional perry still produced were mainly consumed by
people living in farming communities.
However, perry (often marketed under the name "pear cider", below) has
in very recent times increased in popularity, with around
2.5 million British consumers purchasing it in one year. In
addition, various organisations have been actively seeking out old
perry pear trees and orchards and rediscovering lost varieties, many
of which now exist only as single trees on isolated farms; for
example, the Welsh
Cider Society recently rediscovered the old
Monmouthshire varieties "Burgundy" and the "Potato Pear" as well as a
number of further types unrecorded up to that point.
Pear cider" has in recent years been used as an alternative name for
alcoholic drinks containing pear juice, in preference to the term
perry . According to the BBC, the term was first used when
Brothers Cider, a product industrially made from pear concentrate,
rather than the traditional method using perry pears, was sold at
Glastonbury Festival in 1995: nobody understood what perry was and
were told that it was "like cider, but made from pears".
The use of the term "pear cider", instead of perry, is one of the
reasons for a new commercial lease of life to a drink that was in
decline; in two years sales of the drink increased from
£3.4 million to £46 million. The brewers
Brothers, Gaymers and Bulmers/
Magners now all have their own brands of
pear cider, and
Tesco and other major supermarkets have increased the
number of pear ciders that they sell. The term "pear cider" is
seen by the manufacturers as being more marketeable to the younger
18–34 demographic and by differentiating their products from
previous brands associated with the word perry, such as
Lambrini that are either associated with the female market or deemed
out of fashion by the younger demographic.
CAMRA takes makers like Brothers to task, defining perry and pear
cider as quite different drinks, stating that "pear cider" as made by
the large industrial cidermakers is merely a pear-flavoured drink, or
more specifically a cider-style drink flavoured with pear concentrate,
whereas "perry" should be made by traditional methods from perry pears
Bulmers and other pear ciders are made from pear
concentrate, often imported.) Others, including the industry trade
National Association of
Cider Makers, maintain that the terms perry
and pear cider are interchangeable. Its own rules specify that
perry or pear cider may contain no more than 25% apple juice.
Outside England, Wales and Normandy
The beverage is becoming increasingly popular in Australia. Small
local manufacturers are beginning to appear such as Gypsy Cider,
brewed by 2 Brothers Brewery in Melbourne, Henry's of Harcourt (VIC)
Cider and Paracombe Premium
Perry in the Adelaide Hills. Few
Perry pears are available; it is believed that
Moorcroft, Gin, Green Horse & Yellow Huffcap varieties are in
Australia. Eating pears are generally used with differing results
in Australia. Australian Food Standards permit up to 25% of apple
Pear cider. The importation of pear ciders from
abroad include brands such as Weston's, St Helier, Magners,
Rekorderlig and Kopparberg now available. The only true
comes from Weston's where it also has the
European Union Geographical
indication protection. Weston's also import an Organic
Pear cider', the drink is popular in
Sweden with brands such as
Briska, Kopparberg, Herrljunga Cider,
Rekorderlig Cider, and
Gravendals being present.
In the United States
With hard cider sales on the increase in the American alcoholic
beverage market, the production of perry has increased alongside, with
many craft cideries making perries (typically called pear cider in the
United States) alongside their apple ciders. As the craft beer and
cider industries took off in the United States in the 1990s, a few
players experimented with perries. One of the first commercially
available domestic perries in the US was Ace Cider's
introduced in 1996. Today, even mass market brands, such as
MillerCoors' Crispin Hard
Cider Company and Boston
Angry Orchard, are producing perries.
In New Zealand
New Zealand is seeing a surge in the popularity of
Cider with Old
Mout Cidery, Mac's, and
Monteith's Brewery each producing a pear
Japanese perry is called 'Nashi pear's sparkling wine' or '
(in Japan, Cidre is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the
unfiltered juice of apples.
Cider in Japan refers to a soft drink
similar to Sprite or lemonade.).
In Japan, the most commonly used Cidre pear is the Nashi pear. Nashi
pears are used for both cider and eating purposes.
Pear Cidre can be used as marketing terms to describe canned or
bottled ciders containing a cider widget, or which are cold-filtered
rather than pasteurised.
Higher quality pear cider is sold in champagne-style bottles (cidre
bouché). Many pear ciders are sold in corked bottles, but some
screw-top bottles exist.
Plum jerkum, a similar plum cider from Worcestershire
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Poiré.
Perry Producers in UK
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Overview of making perry at home
Perry Pear, that in 1790 was recorded as producing
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Le Conte pear
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Pyrus × bretschneideri
Pyrus × sinkiangensis
List of pear diseases
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