Robert and Val Fitchett are on a never-ending quest to make the perfect pint of cider – and they have another award to prove it.

Their Upton Cider Company, which opens its shop for the new season today, has been named the best cider-making business in the South of England by the Campaign for Real Ale.

The couple’s tiny business, which relies on friends and family to help pick the apples every autumn, has beaten dozens of competitors from Kent to Oxfordshire.

Their award will be presented tomorrow evening, to add to national Camra awards they won in 2004 and 2005.

South Oxfordshire Camra secretary Paul Dixon said: “Although cider makers are pretty thin on the ground round here, most cider makers are in the South of England – so they were up against some of the top producers in the country.

“There is a lot of kudos in winning this.”

Mr Fitchett, 63, who followed his father and grandfather to become a third-generation fruit farmer, said: “You never perfect it, but we have certainly refined our methods over the years.

“It is very good to get recognition from a body like Camra, who know about cider and what good cider should be like.”

He added: “We only use our own apples. They come from our own orchards, so are subject to the vagaries of nature from year to year.

“Last year, the crop was good quality, but not very high volume. It’s too early to say what it will be like this year, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

The couple produce 12,000 pints of their organic seven per cent cider every year.

Most of it is sold from their farm shop off Reading Road, Upton, near Didcot.

The apples are harvested in September and October, sortted and pressed within two days. The finished product goes on sale 10 months later.