Before his untimely passing, Alex Peckham was already thinking of a succession plan for his eponymous cider brand.
One of the people he talked to about the future was Jody Scott, then the head cidermaker at Zeffer.
“I had spoken to Alex in the past about the possibility of being involved, but we were never sure how it would happen,” Jody says.
Then with Alex’s tragic passing, there was a real possibility the farm would be sold and the trees ripped up for property development because there are very few people in New Zealand who could take on such a project. But Caroline Peckham, Alex’s widow, wanted the farm to continue producing cider.
“Peckham’s is comfortably the best cider orchard in New Zealand in our opinion and we couldn’t bear to see it go. So we were determined to make it work,” Scott said.
Jody and his wife Lois rallied hard and took over the Peckham’s brand in early March.
“Caroline and the whole family are very supportive of us and it means a lot to them that it was us who took it on which is very humbling and we’re honoured to be here.
“We’d been thinking about doing something ourselves for a long time. Lois has worked in marketing with global drinks brands in the UK, and she’s done a lot of work with wine brands here in New Zealand.
“We always felt that with my production background and her sales and marketing, we had most of the skills covered and it made sense for us to finally take the plunge.”
Having control of the fruit vital part of process
For Jody, moving from cidermaker to orchardist-maker was what he’d always wanted to do since starting out in viticulture.
“Having control of the fruit and the ability to look after it all the way through the process is so important. I came from viticulture and winemaking, so the growing side is a big part of it for me.”
To that end, he’s just overseen his first harvest in charge of Peckham’s and is looking forward to making the kind of ciders Peckham’s is known and loved for.
“The heart of Peckham’s is about the fruit so we’re sticking to that mantra. The ciders have a passionate following and we want to continue the legacy Alex and his family worked so hard to build.
“There’s a phrase in the wine industry, ‘Great wine is made in the vineyard’ and that applies to cider too. Our intention is to keep crafting great Peckham’s style ciders which can only come from our heritage cider apple trees.”
One of the things Alex loved to do was experiment with new blends and infusions. Jody already has a list of ideas bubbling away in his head, including a Ciderkin which is naturally low in alcohol but still full of flavour. He is looking forward to being able to focus on cider-making as soon as the last apples are harvested.
“We’re not far away now. Nearly all apples are off the trees. The juice is tasting amazing and we’ve had wall to wall sunshine all the way through picking so we’ve been really lucky this year.
“May will be an exciting month as we’ll be able to turn our attention to making some new ciders. We know the Peckham’s fans love trying out new ciders so this is a great opportunity for small batch experimentation which is the fun bit for me!”
Looking to the future, The Scotts have hopes to open a taproom but this could be at least two years away.
“It’s just such a beautiful place here and we’d love people to visit. We’re located on a road full of artisan producers so it’s a great destination for any cider lover and foodie.”