Are you looking for a drink that is suitable for everyday use and can be combined in many different ways for the warm season? How about some cider? It is refreshing and fruity, gently tingles and has only a few turns. Also delicious and even a little lighter is the so-called poiré, which is made from pears.
We stock Kerné cider from Brittany and Poiré from Normandy from the friendly family business Pierre Huet from Cambremer.
This is where I ended up last November when I was allowed to look behind the scenes of the production of one of France's most famous products with a film team from Kabel Eins for the program "Abenteuer Leben Tages". François-Xavier Huet, a great-great-grandson of the company founder, took a lot of time for us despite health problems. For two days he patiently answered all questions, let us taste everything and was quite simply the perfect host. I would like to expressly thank him for this friendly welcome and the many years of extremely pleasant cooperation. After all, it's always the people who make the difference and ensure that it's either a mediocre to normal experience or an all-round great experience that you won't forget. Thank you, dear François-Xavier!
This article will of course deal with the individual production steps from apple to drink, but also with the peculiarities of its taste and how best to enjoy cider and what foods it goes best with.
The Pierre Huet company
The company was founded in 1865 by François Huet in the Manoir la Brière des Fontaines in Cambremer, on the Route du Cidre in the Pays d'Auge in Normandy. Nevertheless, the company bears the name of Pierre, François son, who took over the father's business and promoted the marketing of products that had not been commercialized until then. After several alternating François' and Pierres, the current François-Xavier is now the fifth generation at work. François runs the domaine with just eight employees and has named his son Marius.
So tradition is very important here, but so is innovation. The stills used to produce the Calvados, which is also produced here, are no longer heated with oil, but with wood pellets made from the domaine's own wood. These stills are also part of a sophisticated resource-saving system that heats the entire main house throughout the winter.
Another contribution to environmental protection is the extensive renunciation of pesticides, even if this may result in crop failures.
The 30 hectare domaine is planted with apple trees that bear 25 different apple varieties, which can be divided into 4 classes: sweet, sour, bitter and medium-bitter. The bitter apples are not suitable for consumption and are therefore not sold. I always find that sort of thing exciting, so of course I had to try one right away. To make it short: after a single curious bite, the apple landed in the ditch. The texture is woody, the flesh is sour and bitter at the same time and not very juicy at all. Nevertheless, it is precisely this category of apples that contributes to the complex and exciting aroma of the finished product.
Accordingly, 70% bitter and sour apple varieties are found both on the plantation and in the finished cuvée. This requirement is laid down in the cahier des charges, an official set of rules, and is not a negotiable matter of interpretation. Their compliance is strictly controlled by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine = National Institute of Designations of Origin).
What is cider and how does it differ from Hessian Äppelwoi (apple wine)?
Cider is a carbonated alcoholic beverage made from apples. Depending on the apple variety used, its color is golden yellow to amber and depending on the filtration, the cider is crystal clear or naturally cloudy. Depending on the type and brand, it can be divided into sweet, sweet and sour or tart in terms of taste. The longer the cider ferments, the less sweet it is, because the fermentation processes the sugars contained in the cider. The alcohol content can also vary, but is usually between 4.5 and 6%.
The Hessian Äppelwoi contains no carbonic acid, tastes rather tart and sour and contains between 5 and 7% alcohol. These differences are due to differences in manufacturing.
Harvest: When the apples have reached the right degree of ripeness, they are harvested using simple harvesting vehicles. This typically happens between October/November and December.
Sorting: In a next step, the apples are washed and sorted. Stones, stalks and leaves are removed.
Crushing, first fermentation and filtration: The apples are then crushed into must, which takes about two hours. In this process, the enzymes necessary for fermentation are released. The must thus obtained is stored in an open tank. This unfolds the aromas and creates the golden-brown color. After about a week, spontaneous fermentation begins, but is stopped again. This is done by grinding the must again and then filtering it, which removes the yeasts from the liquid, without which fermentation cannot take place.
Alcoholic fermentation: In April, the must is then poured into barrels, where the desired fermentation takes place with its own yeasts. This typically takes one to four months - depending on the composition of the must and the desired aroma of the end product (see below).
Bottle fermentation: The last step is bottling and bottle fermentation, for which the cider is given at least three months – again depending on the desired aroma. In this last step, the natural carbonic acid is created, which, like other carbonated alcoholic beverages with bottle fermentation, such as champagne, cannot escape because the bottle is closed with a cork.
A small digression on fermentation:
The fermentation, i.e. the fermentation of sugar to alcohol by the yeasts, always depends on the temperature and the yeasts.
In industrial productions, which are concerned with cost reduction and mass production, a lot of yeast is usually added in order to achieve rapid fermentation. However, this is also at the expense of the aroma spectrum, which is rather flat with industrial cider.
The formation of complex aromas, which one knows from traditionally produced cider, takes a certain amount of time. That is why small traditional companies that want to produce aromatically complex cider also filter their cider several times. Because, as already described above, the yeasts that are necessary for fermentation are removed with each filtration. This slows down the fermentation, as it takes about a week for the new yeast to form and for fermentation to start again.
We tried our way through the different degrees of maturity and filtration. This was not only visually interesting, but also in terms of taste: you can clearly taste the yeasts in the unfinished product and you can follow very well how the aroma develops with advancing age.
Possible combinations of the different aroma categories:
In Brittany, cider is often served in clay bowls. In Normandy, it is drunk like wine from small, bulbous wine glasses. Its ideal drinking temperature should not be too cold. 10°C is perfect.
We like to drink cider as an aperitif or for a picnic, before, during and after a meal, and we like to be flexible and liberal when it comes to food pairing regulations. The main thing is that it tastes good!
Particularly well-known and popular is of course the combination with regional specialties such as crêpes or the cheeses from the so-called “Trilogy Normande”: Camembert, Livarot and Pont l'Évèque.
But if you would like it to be a little more dedicated, we have a few tips for you here.
- double French for "sweet". Cider in this category only matures for around 2 months and contains only little alcohol at around 2.5%. It is very fruity and sweet and therefore goes well with desserts such as sweet crêpes, apple pie, Aunt Tatin or savory dishes with a sweet note, such as roast pork with prunes.
- Pays d'Auge: The protected origin cider with a sweet and tart aroma that matures for around 3 months. The Cidre Pays d'Auge is subject to strict controls by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine = National Institute of Appellations of Origin). Its alcohol content is usually between 3.5 and 4.5%. It is characterized by a successful balance of sweet, bitter and a slightly sour note. It is extremely versatile and goes well with desserts with fruit or cream, sweet and savory crêpes or galettes, but also with savory dishes, light or certain red meats such as lamb or duck.
- brood. French for "tart". This cider matures for around 5 months and contains around 4% alcohol. It has largely lost its fruity sweetness and is therefore more refreshing. A wonderful aperitif, either neat or as a "Kir Normand" (with crème de cassis) and accompaniment to charcuterie, red meat or hearty galettes (salty crepes made from buckwheat flour).
In addition to the star product cider, Huet also produces Calvados and Pommeau. The legendary Calvados is a high-proof fruit brandy which, in my opinion, is unfairly overshadowed by its big brothers, Cognac and Armagnac. The lesser-known Pommeau is a caramel-brown, sweet liqueur wine with only 17% alcohol, which is drunk neat or on the rocks as an aperitif. You will also find both in our range.
We will be happy to answer any further questions you may have in a personal consultation. Talk to us, we're happy to help!
>>> Here you will find the contribution "Nationskampf: Apfelwein vs. Cidre" from the program "Abenteuer Leben Tages" in the Kabel Eins media library.