In 1999 terrible storms whipped through the Domfrontais region, hauling out trees young and old, offering the poireculteurs of the region a reminder of the power of nature. Yet Jérôme Forget at Ferme de l’Yonnière in Torchamp was not deterred. With no recent history of perrymaking in his family – like many it had only been Calvados – when he arrived a few years before he immediately began planting trees to add to the ancient trees already there. And tall trees, so that cows could graze underneath, as is the norm. In 2000, he began again.
Now he has 10ha (25 acres) of perry pears and tall cider varieties. Self-taught, his passion is ‘to conserve the process’. Walking with Jérôme and his partner Janice in the orchards at dusk is immensely calming. There are 30 varieties, including the region’s flagship variety Plant des Blancs, alongside rarer varieties. A determined eco-warrior, Jérôme considers biodiversity as vital. ‘For me the most important thing is that the fruit arrives naturally,’ he says.
He was one of the band of producers to form the Domfront AOP, setting down standards for perry quality produced int he region. Yet this isn’t the AOP poiré in my glass, magical though that is. Rather it’s Poiré Fermier, his and business partner Justine Simonklein’s farmhouse perry. That’s because it’s a perfect blend of light green tang and pear notes alongside tart tropical fruit flavours – unripe pineapple, papaya skin and starfruit. Almost water-white with an enthusiastic sparkle, it’s off-dry, fragrant with pear notes throughout, plus the faintest herbal tinge.
There’s ‘nothing mathematical’ about making perry, says Jérôme, ‘not like cider. You never get the same quantities. It’s always by instinct. Très intéressant.’
Region: Pays de Domfront, Normandy
Fruit: primarily plant de blancs, with a blend of what else is ripe at that moment in time
Life story: Picked off the ground to ensure optimal ripeness – and because the trees are difficult to put a ladder against or to shake; gentle pressing, slow fermentation with natural yeasts.
If you like this: Try Poiré Domfront AOP; Pyrus, Apéritif de Poire
Experience: The shop is open on Monday, Tuesday and Friday – phone ahead for guided tours.
Journalist, editor and drinks judge, Susanna Forbes specialises in beer, cider, English wine and drinks tourism. She is the proud owner of an orchard in Herefordshire with husband James, where they have started their own cider business, Little Pomona. Susanna is regularly to be found on Twitter and Instagram.
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo © Ferme de l’Yonnière | Text © Susanna Forbes / Quadrille