Two French Brothers. Normandy vs Breton

Our IT guy has been on a trip to France. Even while he was on holiday, he thought about me, (I do call him often), and returned with two bottles of French cidre. He did admit that one might be a bit ‘local supermarket’ and the other is a bit posher.

They both come in very similar, corked bottles. First up will be La Fauconneire Cidre de Normandie. Norman from the falconry is a 5% brut, (dry), cider.

cidre-de-normandie

Cidre de Normandie

Yes, it’s supermarket style. Golden, clear and slightly sparkling. Norman smells a bit like toffee and sherry, with a hint of second-hand shop. Maybe a touch of wee, too. The aftertaste is dusty and stale, like being in a theatre, while wearing old leather.

Norman doesn’t have a website.
Old Skool.

Next up is Les Trois Feres Jan. That’s French talk for Three Brothers John. This one ain’t a le Tesco special, no, this one has won the gold medal from the Breton Ciderical House. I’d like to work there! No bright colours here – the John brothers clothe themselves in subtle, earthy tones, with an accent of gold and live in a chateau. Château de Lézergué, to be accurate.

les-trois-freres-jan

Les Trois Freres Jan

Like its poorer cousin, it still comes with a cork. Reasonably similar in colour and taste, although the Johns lack the mouldy council flat taste. This one smells of velvet curtains and grand pianos, and expensive-looking vases in the hallway, and velvety-soft, toilet paper, with the tip turned into a point.

At 4.5%, it relies more on taste than strength, like myself.

It tastes a bit more healthy. You can tell by the freshly chopped apples in the background. If you look carefully, you can also see an onion and garlic bulb. That means it’s very French. I only had a red onion, but that’s a sign of decadence.

Hold up, Brother John, I spot a bit of dustiness in there! Maybe the cleaner hasn’t been in this week? Or maybe there’s not so much difference between these two cousins. Perhaps Norman made a bad decision, which spiralled out of control and fell on bad times, or maybe Brother John is all heirs and graces, and is really just chip butties and Skol in front of the telly, in his duds.
When no one is looking.

Just like all humans came from the Rift Valley 70,000 years ago, all apples descended from the same tree in Georgia, apparently. Norman and John are from the same tree.

      But one’s a bit crap.

Verdict: Norman 2.5/5, The Johns 4/5

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Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut

Bonjour. Un kilo des pommes, sil vous plait.

Some time ago, I was given a bottle of posh French cider, by my colleague, who’s boyfriend works in a nice restaurant. Merci beaucoup, Wes!Eric Bordellet

I decided this was a good time to write about a French cider, since some mentals in Paris decided that their god was upset that someone was drawing cartoons of him, and went on a rampage. It seems odd that anyone would put all their faith in a god who is so self-conscious and short tempered. I’d like to propose we all have a cider in the name of peace.

I’ve said it before, you don’t get a violent cider drinker. In fact, I bet God is a cider drinker. To get into the mood, I decide to have a bit of a French theme tonight and, while the cider is chilling, I pop out to Sainsbury’s to get a baguette and some fromage. I try to remember anything from French lessons at school, unfortunately I used to found the teacher dull and I wondered what was the point, France was so far away–in those days, I thought Scotland was exotic!

Eric Bordellet shoot

Stereotypically, for the photo shoot, I include a bulb of garlic, and a mini Eiffel tower on top of a phrase book, in the background. Popping out the cork, (it’s like a fine champagne), the cider is a warm golden colour, with a natural sparkle. Sacre bleu! Le bouquet is rich and sweet and cinder-toffee but the aftertaste changes. It smells more powerful than I expected and the taste is drier than the French ciders I’ve previously had. C’est bon, j’aime. That’s French for, ‘It’s nice, I like’.

It has un peu bitterness, a bit like a dessert apple cider, a Golden Delicious sitting in an orchard in the warm, late summer sun in a beret, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. Ou est la syndicate d’initiative?

The Port Salut cheese is nice on the warm baguette, but it’s a bit too mild for this cider. One of those dodgy old mouldy cheeses would be a better partner for this Gallic brute. I avoid munching through the bulb of garlic. This 5.5% dry sidre is made by Eric Bordellet, who used to be pictured on his website with his head between the legs of a tree, to the sound of Super Mario-style music. Thankfully it’s recently been tastefully redesigned. The site tells me he used to be a sommelier, and has produced ciders and perries since 1992. Based in Normandy, he grows a range of apple and pear varieties, and pays as much attention to cider making as one would to creating a fine wine. Good man. You can find Eric Bordellet ciders in the UK, via Le Caves de Pyrene.

Let’s see if I can translate this stuff on the back of the bottle… ‘Fruity flavours are produced from the living land and rocks by guys anxious to please our senses and for our good health’. Oui, I’m sure that’s what it means

Verdict:4/5

A well-rounded cider, with a touch of class. Mange touts

Breton Cidre, canalside, Avricourt, France

I’m on a 22m long sea barge, cruisin’ eastwards on the canal towards Strasbourg, wit my crew.

After last night’s cidre, and some strange dreams, we’ve traversed another 10 locks, and several joggers have passed us by, on the canalside. As darkness looms, we’re obliged to moor somewhere and find a spot near the final canal lock of the day. A friendly Swiss couple refuse our request to moor alongside them as we’ll spoil their view. Cheeky bastards.

So we set up a barbecue on the canalside, upwind from the Swiss, and I find many damp twigs to burn and La Fauconnerie Bretoncreate as much smoke as possible. The fire is getting going. Good fire. Burn stuff. Men drink beer, poke fire with stick. Fun. Woman bring plate and condiment. Also good. Well, we not fucking caveman.

Out in the warm evening, we share the last bottle of cidre. After this 30km trip, my sailing days are over. Tomorrow I return to my landlubber ways, so to celebrate, we have a bottle of Breton Cidre. My beer and gin-loving hosts enjoyed the previous nght’s cidre, so this one has a lot to live up to. This 5.5% cidre by La Fauconnerie is an dark orange colour, lightly sparkling.

Rather than the brut is suggests on the bottle, this is rather a sweet cider. (I will later learn that French ciders are made by keeving, which retains the sweetness) The taste, like the colour, is rich and golden. A honey, nutty, dessert apple taste, my ciderkicks like this one the most, and agree with my honey-nut description, so I know I haven’t been eating too many Crunchy Nut cornflakes®. Very easy drinking. This is still a distinctly French cider, but if this is the dry, the medium must be like drinking a tin of syrup.

How very civilised it seems to sit with our folding boat furniture, discussing the subtleties of cidre tastes, as we soak up the smell of smoke. Tomorrow, smelling like a teenager at a festival,  I face a trip back home on a bicycle with little braking power, two miles across the French countryside, to a derelict train station to hope a train arrives to take me back to Nancy. I weigh up my chances of making it back at all, while we finish off the cider and chew on grilled halloumi. How very civillised. Those Swiss have missed out, here!

Verdict: 5/5

Cave Saint Michel, canalside, Crévic, France

I got picked up in Nancy Ville by a couple of sailors.

De Volendammer

No, it’s not the start of a George Formby song, I’ve a couple of friends living on an old sea barge, who collected me from the train station in Nancy, France. I’m looking forward to see what the French countryside has to offer. Nancy is very fancy, lots of white stone and gilded things, it’s like a big cake! We’re moored on the canal, and spend a night out on the cobbles of Nancy, drinking dark beers, the next day we sail eastwards along the canal at 6mph. I even got to steer the boat, although they call it sailing.

My job, this weekend, is ‘lock elf’, fending off the advances of the slippery lock walls and boatfulls of drunken German teens in sailor caps, with my big rubber fender. Although it sounds like the plot of a top-shelf title, it’s nice to be part of the crew After at least ten locks, very few scratches and no man overboards, we reach a convenient mooring next to the town of Crevîc, or Crevice, as we decide to call it, which sounds much more entertaining.

However, anyone who lives in this town must be hiding in a crevice, as there’s no one around, only one shop open, selling newspapers and a few bits and pieces. Not a pop-up cider bar in sight! Fortunately, my resourceful sea dog friends have stocked up on plonk, including a French cider, from Cave St Michel.Cave St Michel

After robbing some blackberries from some French dude’s back garden, we settle in for the night, on the boat, and crack open le cidre. I can’t find out much about this one, but I’m told Cave St Michel is an island off the north of France. I’m not sure that’s true, or maybe I imagined it.

This cider was recommended to my friends, by a beer buff who runs the Sashuis Astene in Belgium. It’s a 5%, golden orange filtered cider, lightly sparkling. The smell is syrupy-smoky with sweet apples. The taste is strong with a smoky aftertaste, No so much the brut it suggested on the label, but it rather sweet. My seafaring ciderkicks also like it.

A good start to the holiday. I wonder if all the folks of the ghost town of Crevîc are all staying at home with a cidre on this Friday night. Or out wondering where their blackberries are.

Verdict: 4/5