Cidernaut guide to France

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Just as in Wales and the South of England, there are long traditions of cidermaking in parts France, notably Normandy, Brittany, hence these Cidernaut guides.

Phil Andrews and others began a long list on the French Cider Producers page.

Simon Gleadhill reported back from a scooter trip to Normandy and Brittany

Contents

Brittany

As regards Brittany, we've stayed for a week or so in the Cotes-D'Armor and there are a good number of cidre producers around, but we found very little poire. Brittany cidre is quite different from Normandy - we found it richer and more full-bodied, and drier. The supermarkets in Brittany tend to stock a range of local cidre as well as the common Loic Raison. Loc Raison is very good *if* you buy the traditional cloudy (bouche) variety in clear, glass bottles, with a proper wired cork. With supermarket cidres, check the base of the bottle to see if it's got a good deep dimple - means there's been some bottle fermentation (like a bottle conditioned ale) and is much better for it.

Brittany cider spirit

http://www.ruelmain.co.uk/Brittany%20cider%20spirit.htm


Le Corboulo

This website is for a Gîte whose English(?) owners make traditional Breton cider and have a Music & Cider festival in October. I particularly like the pic showing apples being washed in a paddling pool, good idea no?

Normandy

Ukcider list members John and Lynn McWilliam introduce themselves:

John and Lynn McWilliam, L'Aunay Cidre, Ste. Marguerite de Carrouges, 61320 Carrouges. 02 33 28 19 46 (telephone) johncidre @ aol.com

We are cider producers near Carrouges where there is a brick chateau dating from the 14th century. We are east of Domfront, in the Parc Normandie Maine and we produce our own cider from 10 different local varieties of our 7000 trees on 10 hectares of valley land, begun in 1989. For visits please telephone first and we would be happy to show you around and offer tastings of our 2 ciders as well as pommeau (a cider/calvados based aperitif). Like many French ciders, our ciders are sparkling. We produce a brut, a fruity and a very apple demi-sec which is sweeter than the brut and a real thirst quencher. We particularly like the brut with food, especially creamy camembert but will drink either cider chilled, any time and not just in the summer!

We are not on the official cider route but as you know, there are lots of different ciders according to the 'terroir' or the environment you find yourself in. We are on granite soils, on valley slopes in an area where there are still hedgerows and woodland. We have been accorded AOC - appellation origine controllé for both calvados and pommeau, which means we will be able to sell these under these titles and not as apple brandy and apéritif made from apples. Saves a lot of time and confusion...

The Domfront area is famous for its perry as well as cider, which uses a certain proportion of 'perry' pears in its production. The Boisgontiers at Sept-Forges produce cider, perry and a delicious perry-based aperitif, Porissimo, which is well worth checking out. There is a cider museum at Barenton as well.

For accommodation, there are lots of gites and chambre d'hotes (B&B) around our area. An English-run B&B and holiday let cottage business is within walking distance of Carrouges at La Gringoiriere run by Trevor and Julie Hill. Very reasonable rooms within a main house and good meals can be ordered as well. If you'd like more details tel. (33) 2 33 27 22 96. or email juliehill@free.fr

Carrouges also is the headquarters for the Parc Normandie Maine which is a large area of old granite outcropping which extends into the Mayenne and the Sarthe as well as Orne. Visit the Maison du Parc for information about nature walks, panda gites ('eco' holiday lets), wildlife and activities. They also have a boutique of local products including ours! Wednesday is the local market day at Carrouges.

Alencon, the capital of the department of Orne, has a large Tourist Office near the cathaederal. Alencon was known for its lacemaking and is a pretty provincial town criss-crossed with canals. Markets are Thursday and Saturday.

If you require any other specific information, let us know. We live in a beautiful area and like people to know about it.

Cheers, Lynn McWilliam

PS John has won three medals for his brut cider in the last 18 months: gold at the Concours de St. Jean in the Calvados 2008, silver in the Concours de St. Jean in Le Manche 2009 and a bronze at the famous Concours Général d'Agriculture, held at the Salon d'Agriculture in May 2009; He was one of only two medal winners in his category. Very good results for his first entry!

Stephen Wells adds

Cider is great with seafood and you should be able to find moules Normandes on menus. This is mussels cooked in cider - in place of the white wine you get in the standard Mariniere.

Cider meets seafood in a big way at Honfleur, a beautiful small port on the coast of Calvados, where many bars and restaurants serve cider (usually from named local producers), and the dock side is lined with restaurants serving vast platters of fruits de mer. Not to be missed is La Cidrerie, 26, place Hamelin, which is one of the few specialist cider bars in Normandy. They serve light meals, especially on pancakes and salads, with a choice of ciders from named local producers, and a vast selection of Calvados. Cider here is always served in the traditional way in a pot bol, not a glass. You should be able to get hold of cider bowls in a traditional quincaillerie, but I've not seen them in supermarkets.

The French stress on local products doesn't end with the small restaurants and bars, though. I've found that even the chain restaurants in Calvados and Manche, like the Campaniles, feature cider from named local producers.

From Claire, at Adstock End Farm

I'd like to add that, last month (September 2009) my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting John and Lynn McWilliam at L'Aunay Cidre. Despite a very hectic personal and professional schedule, with apple harvest about to start, John and Lynn made us very welcome.

They started us off with an introduction to the Normandy approach to cider making and then moved on to the principles of gaining the required taste characteristics by selecting and blending juice from the different apple types. This is perhaps obvious to seasoned cider makers, but for we novices, it was all valuable detail.

I should add that this was all done over a steaming pot of coffee, at the farmhouse table, which was most welcome as it was a pretty chilly Autumn morning. John then lent us gumboots and spent much of the rest of his Saturday morning taking us on a personal guided tour of the L'Aunay orchards. We were introduced to apple trees of many varieties and had a fine introduction to what worked well for them and the things to avoid, from making best use of the soil characteristics to wind protection, planting distances and pest control. John is passionate about his craft and it was a real treat for us to be able to tap into his comprehensive knowledge in such a 'hands-on' way. We gained not only an insight into the principles of cider production, but also a pragmatic introduction to the important things to consider when starting up a new cider orchard and then looking after it and its trees to best advantage.

Before the tour, Lynn had suggested we should visit a local town on the Saturday afternoon, to take advantage of the local food festival going on there. This we did, so arranged to return the following day to L'Aunay, for her to give us an introduction to the cider itself. This was by way of a thoroughly enjoyable cider tasting session, where we tried out all the different types and learned more about the history of the L'Aunay venture and the medals that had been won. We learned that Normandy cider tends to be sweeter than the traditional English taste, so the 'brut' type which otherwise I would have assumed to be too dry for my taste, turned out to be perfect. Needless to say, a dozen bottles, still gently bubbling away, soon found their way into the boot of our old Citroen DS!

It turned out that John also works at a beautiful local park, formed from the grounds of a grand old chateau. It has extensive and historic pear and apple orchards, so he suggested we should visit the park's Autumn festival, which by happy co-incidence, was also in progress that same weekend. We did that too and had a lovely time. So, not only were we treated to a great cider-making, cider-tasting and orchard touring experience from Lynn and John - they found us some great things to see and do as well! Many thanks to you both.

All in all, I'd recommend a visit to L'Aunay Cidre for anyone who has the opportunity to do so. The cider is as good as the welcome you'd get - excellent!

Lynn McWilliam of L'Aunay Cidre adds an update of recent activities: Thank you for your glowing account, Claire. Although we almost always seem to be busy we welcome cider enthusiasts! John is passionate about what he does and he has won a fourth medal, this time in an international category: bronze medal International Cider Competition 2010.

We have finally renovated an old cottage to serve as a space for cider-tasting during the spring and summer. Visitors in the cooler months will be welcome in the kitchen for a hot cuppa!

Also we now have a website at long last http://www.launaycidre.com and we are on Facebook Launaycider/launaycidre for a more daily account of what is happening here. We wish you all good harvests this year!

Routes

A good road to follow for finding cidre, poire, pommeau and calvados is the D579 which runs south from Pont-l'Eveque, through Lisieux, Livarot, Vimoutiers and into Gace. Our fave cidre producer is just north of Lisieux near the little town of Ouilly-le-Vicomte. Turn off the D579 and take the little D159 west towards La Maison Rouge (not shown on all maps), under the railway, over the river and across the crossroads with the D48, you'll find Phillipe Daufresne (in Phil's French producers list he's under Department 14 - Calvados).

Another one we always visit is Carol and Didier Gautard at St-Germain-de-Montgommery, just north-west of Vimoutiers (also listed under Department 14 - Calvados). There are two Gautard brothers and from Phil's and my experiences, I'd say Didier is the best bet... Very friendly, very keen to show you around and tell you how he makes his cidre, but he doesn't speak English.

While around Cambremer, we found the lovely farm of François et Stéphane Grandval at the Manoir de Grandouet one of the nicest places to visit. Again, very friendly, will tell you about their cidre, poire, pommeau and calvados - they have an old still, huge ancient barrels and a video of their cider making to watch. And they are quite generous with their tastings...

There is a marked cider route around Calvados, mapped on leaflets available throughout Normandy. Cambremer and Lisieux vie for the title of France's cider capital, and the route weaves its way around them. There are many small cider producers along the Cider Route and a far smaller number of Calvados and Pommeau producers, because the licence to distil is no longer so easily acquired as in the past.

Do, however, try cider from other parts of Normandy too. It tends to be cheaper but not inferior. Good areas to look are in the Cotentin (Cherbourg Peninsula), around Mont St. Michel, the Pays de Bray (the region centred on Neufchatel), and the Andelle Valley (just East of Rouen). Many of the producers also sell excellent apple juices, honey (from apple blossom), and milk confit. A very few still sell apple spirit and liqueur, but these cannot be described as Calavados or Pommeau because these are legally defined and protected appellations.

Burgundy

The small region of Cidre de Pays de Othe is the secret cider region of France.

http://www.cidrefrottier.com/eng/index.htm

A small family business in the old school. The museum shows how cider used to be made. It may be an unexpected pleasure to discover a whole sub-region of cider (Cidre du Pays d'Othe), that tends to get overlooked, compared with Normandy and Brittany. The Frottier's are welcoming and there are 8-12 other producers in the region, which is easy to access from Paris with a cider route and map that you can get from tourist offices. Another family on the route use exclusively Chestnut barrels and made some very good cider. This region is a bit over an hour from Paris.

Other Sites


Have you found the information on this page useful? Do return after you've visited the regions, and update the site with any changes.