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Perry is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented pear juice using a similar process as that for apple cider. Some commercial beverages called pear cider may be a blend of apple cider and pear juice for flavoring, but in Britain perry is limited to no more than 25% apple juice. Sparkling perry is sometimes known as champagne perry. Although perry can be made from juice of any pear variety, just as in apple cider, selected perry pear varieties often contain higher tannins and acids than dessert pear varieties and make a superior perry product. Perry has been common for centuries in Britain and western Europe, but is relatively new to the U.S.

History of Pears and Perry

Palladius, in the 4th century, wrote that the Romans preferred wine made from pears to that from apples. He also gave instructions on how to make perry In medieval times, France was known for producing the best pears, and many varieties were brought to England after the Norman Conquest in 1066. However, wild or hedge pears continued to be grown in rural areas, and these pears were often used for making perry. Gradually regional farmers identified pears that were best in their areas for perry making, and in the late 1800s, enthusiastic researchers identified and described specific varieties, most of which are still known and used today. The Herefordshire Pomona published from 1876-1885 includes a chapter on the establishment of cider and perry factories by the Rev. Charles Bulmer: his son, H.P. Bulmer, founded the famous English cider making firm in 1887. Development and selection of improved varieties has continued to the present day, conducted by both private and state sponsored research programs.

History of Pears

Perry pear research at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC

In 2005 a preliminary screening trial was initiated, with 15 perry pear cultivars planted on Quince C rootstock with an interstem graft, to keep trees small in size. Source of the test varieties was the perry pear collection of the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, OR. These 15 cultivars were selected from 22 available clones, and include 5 of the 6 perry cultivars listed in the Pyrus Core Collection. Traits to be evaluated will include bloom density, date of first bloom, full bloom, last bloom, harvest juice analysis (brix, pH, titratable acid), and harvest date. Observations will include disease susceptibility, tree habit, and vigor.

Perry pears grown at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC (PDF).


Sources for further information

Roach, F. A. 1985. Cultivated Fruits of Britain, Their Origin and History. Blackwell Ltd., Oxford.

Luckwill, L.C. and A. Pollard, eds. 1963. Perry Pears. University of Bristol for the National Fruit and Cider Institute. Covers all aspects of perry making from selecting the varieties to making the finished product. Recommended to anyone wishing to produce good perries.