Normandy harvests over 300,000 specific cider (cidre) apples each year. There are strict guidelines regarding the type of apple, density of the orchards, fermentation and final alcohol levels. The apples used to make traditional Normandy cidre are bittersweet cidre apples that are low in acidity, such as Michelin, Muscadet de Dieppe, and Frequin Rouge. These apples give the cidre from Normandy its distinctive profile.
The fermentation process that creates cidres from Normandy is known as keeving. The process involves letting the natural pectin of the apples turn to a jelly-like consistency in cold temperatures. This takes a week for the pectin jelly to rise to the top of the fermentation tank. The movement of the pectin to the top of the fermentation vessel places the juice in between the jelly at the top of the tank and the solids at the bottom.
The juice in the middle of the tank is deficient in nutrients. Cidre-making requires the presence of nutrients for the yeast to feed on during the fermentation process. In the process of fermenting French cidre, excess nutrients and yeast are removed or siphoned out. The nutrient-deficient juice is then slowly fermented at cold temperatures with small quantities of yeast for up to six months. Many cidre makers will carbonate the cidre or pasteurize it before bottling.
Cider is spelled cider in the UK and the U.S. It is spelled sidre in Spain and cidre in France, as you have witnessed in this article. European cider is known for its alcoholic content, while American cider is still known for its flavor minus alcohol. The recent trend in American ‘hard ciders’ is taking off with obviously different results as the apples used for hard cider are not as acidic as the international ciders on the market and need a niche following to survive versus the overseas competition.
One cider that stands out is from Normandy. It is an appellation with a thousand-year apple cidre history.
My favorite cidre is Romilly Cidre, often considered Normandy’s finest cidre, with its unsurpassed craftsmanship and legacy, which has emerged tops using eight different Norman heritage apples which are biodynamically grown and used specifically for their limited production line of cidres. I’ve had the opportunity to sample these cidres: there are five offerings: Extra dry; Demi Sec; Brut; Doux, and Rose. Each variety, as mentioned earlier, uses eight different styles of apples to produce the final product. The Extra dry is dry with a smidgen of sweetness which shines through its fruity astringent smoky base. Musty, barnyard, and earthy flavors favor the funky Demi-Sec, while the Brut is also a bit funky with the emergence of the Norman apple sweetness. It’s balanced and refreshing. The Doux is unique with its focus on the sweetness of the eight varieties of Norman heritage apples paired with a bit of earthy flower bed. Recently added is the Rosé, a limited production crowd pleaser that is full of rich apple and flower flavors topped with wild herbs.
Several of the Romilly Cidres have recently won their category scoring 95 points in the World Cider Championships, a feat that showcases the world’s best ciders.