Cidre Bouché de Normandie

Cider trends have changed dramatically in the UK in the past 10-15 years. When I was a teenager I didn’t like beer, so I only used to drink cider. I quickly developed a taste for the local produce- Weston’s Cider. Still some of my favourite, their cider has a very full apple flavour, as well as quite a full body. The factory was only an hour’s drive away, and the cider was strong stuff at 7-8% alcohol, which meant for many enjoyable evenings. The local supermarket stocked a range of their cider, as well as Somerset cider, French cider and a few specialist ciders, as well as the usual range of Strongbow and the like. Real cider drinking was a pretty niche thing back then, most people would just drink beers, and cider was usually just drunk by guys.

The changes in cider attitudes came in much quicker than I expected. I remember Magners Cider first arriving- a reasonable, crisp, well structured cider, but lacking some of the maturer apple flavours you would get in more traditional brews. Easy to drink, Magners and its contemporaries proved very popular, being seen in many pubs and bars across the country, especially in the summer. Cider drinking started to become fashionable, more popular, and so the cider section of the supermarkets offered more and more choice. But with these ciders came the fruit ciders. Starting with the pear-flavoured Koppaberg (which used to be found in Ikea), in came drinks like the pear or red fruit Jacques- fruity, sweet, low alcohol, and popular with the ladies. They weren’t really ciders, at least from a flavour standpoint, but they were called ciders, perhaps because it was easier to call them that than anything else. Now, these alcoholic fruit juices like Rekorderlig are most of what is left. I went to the supermarket the other day, and the ciders I liked were not to be found, despite plenty of drink on the shelves. Funnily enough, once again, real cider drinking has become a niche thing.

So I’d like to introduce some of my favourite cider, Normandy cider. Normandy has a long history with apples and alcohol, notably producing Calvados, an apple brandy. Of course, Normandy cider being a French product, they have their own process to make it. The cider is made through a special process called keeving:

In keeving (from the French cuvée), calcium chloride and a special enzyme are added to the pressed apple juice, causing protein in the juice to precipitate to the top for removal. This reduces the amount of protein available to the yeast, starving it and therefore causing the cider to finish fermenting while sugar is still available. The result is a sweeter drink at a lower alcohol level but still retaining the full flavour of the apples, without dilution.

This extra flavour, combined with the fact that Normandy cider is usually sparking, makes the cider very special, in my opinion. The texture can be very similar to some champagne, structured, yeasty, and with a full mousse. A wonderful summer drink, bringing an apple-y freshness and maturity.

The one I really like is The Wine Society’s Cidre Bouché de Normandie. It’s not cheap at £5 for 750ml, but it’s definitely worth it- I’ve introduced a few keen cider drinkers to it and all have agreed wholeheartedly. If you want to get a sample of what the region can produce, this is a great place to start. Sainsbury’s do a French sparkling cider, which is reasonable, but nothing special. Otherwise it is pretty tough to find- Tesco have none, and nor do Waitrose (who, admittedly, have a good selection of British cider). Despite this, if you do see the cider around in specialist shops, do give it a go- it’s really worth a try.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Normandy Apple Tart « oxfood
  2. Trackback: Food and Wine Pairings IV: Regionality « oxfood

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