For a true taste of Normandy, you may like to try some of the alcoholic drinks created from over 200 varieties of apples, grown in every farm in the region. Not only can you often watch the apples being sorted, steeped and pressed in the sheds, but also you can taste and even buy the products that have been fermented and distilled, from cellar door sales. The following are the most popular alcoholic drinks connected with the Normandy region and vary according to the soil, fruit and distillation method:
Cidre (Cider) is an apple wine fermented from apple juice which originated in the C6th and had become mass produced in Normandy by the C15th with an improvement in pressing techniques. It has a powerful aroma and fresh fruity taste. POIRE (Perry, also known as “Normandy champagne”) is a similar drink made from pears.
Calvados (apple brandy) was named after a rock in Arromanches and became popular as an aperitif in the C16th. It is produced by distilling dry fermented cider into “eau de vie” which is then aged in oak casks for a minimum of two years. A single distillation in a column still, gives a simple brandy and double distillation using an alembic pot still, creates a more complex drink.
Pommeau is a popular aperitif often served with blue cheese or melon and is created by blending unfermented apple juice with apple brandy and then stored for 30+ months in an oak barrel. The mutage (or mixing) is supposed to be distinct to each Normandy farm.
Benedictine (a herbal liqueur) was created at the Benedictine monastery of Fecamp in Normandy and contains a unique and secret blend of 27 aromatic plants and spices. It is distilled and aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of two years.
At the heart of the Pays d’Auge is the “Route de Cidre” a 40km signposted circular route, where you can visit many of the picturesque half-timbered farms that create and sell these apple-based drinks. Some of the attractive villages included in the route are: Cambremer, Victot-Pontfol, Beauvion-en-Auge, Beaufour-Druval, Bonnebosqr, La Roque-Baignard, St Ouen-le-Pin and Rumesnil.
On many farms in the area, you may well see a stone horse-drawn circular cider press, that is no longer in modern use, but which has been converted into an attractive garden feature.