Andrew Lea was presented with his award by the Countess of Wessex at this year's Royal Bath & West Show in Somerset, held at the beginning of June.
He worked at the centre near Bristol for 13 years until it stopped doing fruit research in 1985. He told Grower: "I am very pleased. Receiving this award was quite unexpected - the organisers did not tell me in advance."
Lea revealed that, 10 years ago, the show's cider section had slumped into just a sub-section of the bees and honey division. However, now that the UK cider industry is thriving again the cider, perry and apple competitions have been revived. This year the cider competition had 320 entries.
Lea, a chemist by trade, said his passion for cider developed "by accident". He first worked in other areas of the food industry, including confectionery, soft drinks and tea research, the latter of which saw Lea specialise in tannins.
Tannins are also found in cider apples and give the drink its distinctive taste and colour. Lea soon realised that he could use his expertise to develop the cider he was making from his own garden orchard.
Lea introduced a method of tannin estimation using high-performance liquid chromatography. This has helped cider makers understand the characteristics of various different ciders and cider apple juices, by identifying the structure and significance of the wide range of naturally-occurring apple juice phenolic compounds.
He has also written a number of key publications on cider, including a review for the National Association of Cider Makers called The Nature and Significance of Cider Phenolics.
ROYAL BATH & WEST SHOW WINNERS
The Co-operative's own Tillington Hills cider, made from apples grown on its farm in Herefordshire, was one the ciders sampled at the show.
Meanwhile, Glastonbury Abbey's cider - made from the fruit of trees within the walls of Glastonbury Abbey - won the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers' Perpetual Cup award.
- Sheppey & Son won Best Organic Cider.
- Lizzie Heck won Best Perry.
- Bridge Farm Cider won Best Apple Juice.
- Dorset Nectar won Best Community Orchard.