The cider market in the United States has grown over 500 percent since 2011. While that is something to crow about, cider’s roots go much deeper and farther than just North American soils. Get to know cider on a global scale, using this introductory guide to six major international cider cultures. First up was Great Britain, followed by Ireland, now we hit up France.
Apples have been grown in France for many hundreds of years, and where there are apples there will be cider. The history of French cider has been full of ups and downs, in particular the massive destruction of orchards during World War II. Two seminal moments from the 1600s stand out, though. One is the development of super-strong glass bottles that could withstand the internal pressure of high carbonation. The second is a production method known as keeving, which uses native yeast and a very slow, temperature-controlled fermentation to create a naturally sweet, naturally sparkling, highly aromatic, relatively low-alcohol beverage. While practiced in both France and England, France has truly embraced this style of cider and made it its own.
The Current Scene
The heart of French cider is certainly found in Normandy and Brittany, where orchards of tannin-rich cider apples can be found throughout the countryside. In true French fashion, each region has areas where production is governed by the strict regulations of the appellations d’origine contrôlées (AOC) system, which guarantees both quality and tradition. This has not stopped producers from innovating, of course, and many, both within and outside the AOC areas, are experimenting with ice ciders, unusual beer-like styles and ciders flavored with other local produce, such as chestnuts. Typically enjoyed as part of a meal, new interest in cider has stimulated the opening of cider-centered restaurants in many parts of France, including Paris.
4 Regional Apples to Know
Binet Blanc, Medaille d’Or, Frequin Rouge, Mettais
Classic Ciders to Sip
Manoir de Grandouet AOP Pays d’Auge Cidre: Aromas of baked apples and pears give way to notes of spice and leather on the palate; pronounced tannins balance the natural residual sugars for a clean, pleasing finish.
Christian Drouin Poiré Acide: Sweet, tart and lemony, this perry tastes like a sophisticated, sparkling, unfiltered lemonade but is 100 percent pear juice.
Domaine Dupont Cidre Triple: Reminiscent of a strong pale ale with intense notes of chicory and licorice and pronounced bitterness.
This article originally ran in print Vol. 13 of Cidercraft magazine. For the full story and more like it, click here.