Perry is a fermented alcoholic beverage, which can be either sparkling or still, and has traditionally been made in England and Wales for more than 500 years – similar to a beverage known in northern France as poiré. Traditionally Perry is a blend of several varietals, each adding different properties to the final beverage.
In Australia, Green Horse takes the varietal name as the variety in its native UK. Formerly wild pears, originating in the Forest of Dean in the Wye Valley, this particular variety of pear were propagated/grafted and domesticated by local farmers as early as the 1300s. The fruit is usually oblate, sometimes slightly turbinate. The skin is green or yellowish green, sometimes with a slight orange flush, russet around the stem, more usual around the eye spreading to the cheek. This variety of Perry pear, otherwise inedible, was pressed for its juice and transformed into an alcoholic beverage, records of which exist since the early 1500s mentioned in John Gerard’s ‘The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes’ [sic] published in 1597. Significantly, in historical times it was safer to drink a fermented beverage than the local pond or river water. Traditionally the beverage was made from the extracted juice of the pear, by crushing the pears in circular stone mill by pulled by a horse or mule. Currently in Australia the juice is extracted through matting by hydraulic pressure, by methods not dissimilar to traditional ones, although currently through nylon – rather than horse-hair – matting. The traditional production areas were Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in the UK, where the beverage, Perry, is a Slow Presidium product.
In Australia such Perry pears were introduced to Harcourt near Bendigo during the Gold Rush which began there in the 1850s. The bud-wood or seedling trees were sourced from a nursery in Melbourne. A disease ‘Fireblight’ wiped out many Perry pear trees four decades ago. Thus preserving such a ‘critically endangered’ variety is critically important, as in Australia there are 90 Green Horse trees currently in production in Australia. This product is still in commerce, but in very limited quantities, due to the few number of perry pear trees, which need to be preserved. The production is entirely artisanal, as the fruit is in such limited supply. There are currently only two commercial growers of Green Horse in Australia.