Organizing hard cider into categories is subject matter that most cidermakers and cider enthusiasts have given thought to at one time or another. This categorization of cider, done primarily to make the beverage more easily explained, is a more difficult task than for wine. Wine fall easily into categories based on which type of grape is used to make the wine as and by the appellations from which they come.
One of the most delightful things about French Normandy cidre is that it is by every measure a distinct category of cider that not only can be understood based on where it is made, but also by its very distinct style.
Normandy Cider produced from apples grown primarily in and around the Paye d’Auge region of northern France been a staple of the region for a millennium. In that far northern European climate, wine grapes don’t grow too well. Apples, however, thrive and have led to long history of cidermaking.
Normandy Cider is distinguished by several consistent features:
• It tends to carry a more aggressive apple sugars and is sweeter on the palate
• Alcohol levels tend to be lower—most often between 4% and 5%
• Tannin levels tend to be higher than other ciders due to a greater reliance of bittersweet cider apples.
• The carbonation tends to be Champagne-led and more assertive
• The overall character of Normandy cider is best described as “elegant”.
Together, these features make it fairly easy to distinguish Normandy cider form ciders made elsewhere, even if tasted blind.
This reviewer is particularly fond of the better example of Normandy-born cider. At their best these ciders display remarkable balance of the key components, namely alcohol, acid, tannin, sugar and carbonation. Additionally, their bold but elegant structures make them remarkably good accompaniments to a variety of foods.
Below are four Normandy ciders recently reviewed at The Cider Journal: