In many parts of France, you might see people opting for the wine when they fancy an aperitif, but did you know that Normandy’s drinks revolve not around grapes, but apples and pears?
Normandy cidre, poiré [pear cider], Pommeau and Calvados are all made with a mixture of apples and/or pears, chosen from the hundreds of varieties that grow in the region, which fall into the following categories:
- Bittersweet: Low in acid and high in tannin, these characterful and flavoursome apples add a subtly sharp and bitter notes to cider. Examples: pisque, binet rouge and bedan.
- Sweet: The blandest of all varieties, these apples are low in acid and tannins and are often used to balance more strongly flavoured notes. They also encourage fermentation and raise alcohol levels. Examples: rouge duret and douce coetligné.
- Sharp: These acidic apples bring freshness or ‘bite’ to the cider, and balance out sweet varieties. They are low in sugar and tannins. Examples: petit jaune, rambault and cidor.
- Bitter: Known as ‘spitters’, these apples and pears are rich in tannins, which provide texture and that fuzzy dry feeling in your mouth. They are used to add body and depth to cider. Examples of apple: fréquin rouge, mettais and moulin à vent. Examples of pear: plant de blanc, rouge vigné, gros blot, plant roux, de cloche and gaubert.
The distinctive flavours of Normandy’s numerous apple and pear-based beverages are produced using centuries-old family recipes and traditional aging methods. So without further ado, here is a breakdown of Normandy’s best beverages:
- Cidre: Made from apples, Normandy cidre comes in several forms: bouché (naturally sparkling, golden in colour and full-bodied), doux (sweet, low in alcohol, often cloudy), brut (dry with acidic notes, higher in alcohol than sweeter varieties) and demi-sec (fruity, sweeter than brut, refreshing).
- Poiré AOP: Made up of at least 40% plant de blanc pears, poiré is pressed then left to naturally ferment, resulting in a dry, lightly sparkling drink with a distinctive floral bouquet.
- Pommeau: A sweet, amber-hued aperitif (16-18%) made from two parts freshly-pressed tannin-rich apple juice and one part young Calvados.
- Calvados AOC et Pays d’Auge AOC: Traditional brandy made from cider, which is distilled and aged in oak barrels for at least two years. The longer Calvados is aged, the smoother it becomes. Younger Calvados has bittersweet, fruity flavours while older Calvados develops nutty aromas and complex coffee and chocolate notes.
- Calvados Domfrontais AOC: Calvados Domfrontais differs from other types of Calvados on account of the high percentage of pears used alongside apples. The granite soil of the Pays de Domfront and distillation process also contribute to its uniquely floral, fruity taste and mineral characteristics.
So next time you’re in Normandy, give the vin a miss and go for something local instead – santé!
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
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