Cider making: a real art
Harvest takes place from mid-September to December in Breton and Norman orchards. Once harvested, the apples are sorted, washed, crushed (skin, flesh and seeds included), then pressed to extract their juice, known as 'must'. The juice is then stored in vats (sometimes oak barrels) for fermentation. Once bottled, the cider rests in a cellar for a few weeks to several months, depending on the flavour the cider maker wants.
Sweet, dry or scrumpy cider?
Cider can take on several colours from light yellow to amber, with an alcohol content of between two and six percent, depending on its fermentation. It is classified into several categories: sweet, dry, scrumpy ('fermier') or 'bouché'. Sweet cider is lighter while the dry is stronger on the palate. 'Cidre fermier' is made from apples from the actual farm that produces it, and 'cidre bouché' owes its name to its cork stopper. All ciders should be served in an earthenware bowl. In the old days, in the countryside, people weren't wealthy enough to own glass or earthenware dishes, so they used terracotta. The receptacles looked like small bowls, nicknamed 'bolées'. Today, the bowls are also made of ceramic.
Exceptional Breton ciders
Brittany can boast production of some truly exceptional ciders. The most famous is made in the Cornouaille area and bears its name: Cornouaille AOP cider. It is the only Breton cider to benefit from a Protected Designation of Origin. Another popular cider is Royal Guillevic, France's only Label Rouge cider, from the Nicol cider house and made exclusively with Guillevic apples. And the Domaine de Kervéguen in northern Brittany produces a cuvée from organic farming, called Prestige Carpe Diem. For the record, this is the cider that has graced the table at the Élysée Palace since 1997!
The Nicol cider house (External link)
The Domaine de Kervéguen (External link)
Stops along Normandy's cider route
The autumn apple harvest is the perfect time to treat yourself to a little getaway on the Normandy cider route, learning about PDO ciders from the Pays d'Auge and Cotentin. Spread over 40 kilometres with stopovers in the villages of Cambremer, Beuvron-en-Auge, Bonnebosq and Beaufour-Druval, the route links you up with around 20 cider producers, who also present other regional specialities such as pommeau and calvados.
Spotlight on Norman poiré (perry)
This is the other local cider... but made with pears! Nicknamed 'Norman champagne' for its bubbles and pretty golden colour, the perry is made in Domfrontais, an area covering the departments of Orne and Manche in Normandy and Mayenne in Pays de la Loire. It's consumed year round and produced in the same way as apple cider. Perry even has its PDO Poiré Domfront, the smallest Protected Designation of Origin in France.