Is Normandy really the land of cider?

Normandie. Terre de cidre. Normandy. The land of cider. This is a description for Normandy, which I found on a 3-pack bottle carrier for transport of purchased cider. But my recent visit to Normandy didn’t exactly give me the impression I’m in the land of cidre. I felt it was more of a wishful thinking of local cidre producers than the actual status quo. Here is why.

When you are driving west from Paris and heading to Normandy you can easily say that you are getting closer to Normandy when you start passing apple orchards with huge apple trees and subsequently multiple road signs saying cidre, calvados, pommeau or jus de pomme. Trust me, I could barely contain my excitement and each time considered making a detour. But I continued driving as I also wanted to learn more about Normandy and see the most beautiful natural places and important historic places of this French region. I have planned to visit cider makers a bit later on my trip.

After seeing on the way to Fecamp and then to Etretat and Honfleur countless apple orchards and noticing that stores offer local products from Normandy such as cheese, marmalade and cidre created by producers I have never heard of, I was initially convinced I’m in a cider paradise. The first moment of doubt occurred in the beautiful port city of Honfleur. I went to a restaurant in the port area wanting to try local seafood and cidre, of course. Firstly, I looked at the wine list listing red and white wines along with provided information about the wine type, winemaker and vintage. Secondly, I started looking for a cidre list. But all I could find was one anonymous cidre, which you could order either by the glass, pitcher or bottle. Just as if it was a table wine. Nothing about the producer or the year it was created. I’ve looked around and noticed that everyone was drinking either wine or beer. Nobody was having cidre! It needs to be said that most of the restaurant guests were tourists as I couldn’t hear anyone speaking French. After I left the restaurant, I’ve discovered a cider bar nearby and breathed a sigh of relief. But although it was barely 10 pm, the place was already closed so I couldn’t evaluate their cidre selection.

On the next day, after visiting D-Day beaches, where the Allies landed in 1944, I went to a sort of a fine dining restaurant close to Arromanches-les-Bains hoping to see a cidre list this time. Again, I found a long wine list providing detailed information about winemakers and vintage. And, one single cidre. In contrast to the restaurant in Honfleur, I could find information about the cider maker producing the cidre and the year it was created. Do I have to mention that I was the only one drinking cidre in the whole restaurant occupied by only French guests this time?

Then I visited a small town of Beuvron-en-Auge, located on the cider trail, which is advertised as a cider town. The weather was sunny, everyone was sitting outside sipping beer. I haven’t seen a single person drinking cidre.

I was deeply confused with what I saw. On the one hand, there are plenty of cider producers around and lots of shops offering cidre. On the other hand, I could barely see anyone drinking cidre here. Could that be that people from a region with such a rich and long cidre tradition and countless apple orchards bearing excellent fruit, simply perfect for cider, do not appreciate their heritage? When I was already on the cider trail I shared my observations with cider producers such as Guillaume of La Ferme de Billy, Lucile of Manoir de Grandouet and Benoit of Domaine Lesuffleur. Each of them had similar thoughts and pointed out that cidre is, unfortunately, still considered in Normandy the drink of the poor. So how to change it?

  • First of all, cider pairs very well with food. With Normandy cuisine such as seafood or cheese particularly well. So one approach is to educate restaurant owners that there are plenty of local Normandy dishes that pair greatly with cidre. Flavours of cidre can add complexity to the dish and increase the richness of the dining experience. This is for the benefit of the restaurant owner. Moreover, there are more types of cidre than just brut (dry), demi-sec (semi-sweet) and doux (sweet). Normandy cidre differs not only in terms of the level of sweetness but also the level of tannins and acidity. Furthermore, cidre can have strong wild notes or can have a clean taste with no funk. There is no one Normandy cidre! Example: La Ferme de Billy, based in Rots, literally 5km from Caen, seems to be one of the cidre makers trying to educate and change the image of cidre. At their cider house, they offer brunch with hot and cold dishes and educate their guests on how to pair cidre with served dishes to maximise the dining experience.
  • Cider is made like wine and should be treated like wine. So providing information about the production method, apple varieties and taste profile can create a unique story around the cidre. Additionally, I am encouraging Normandy cidre producers to make cidre like wine instead of fermenting all apple varieties together. Create a Normandy cuvée. Try fermenting apple juice obtained from different apple varieties in separate tanks and blend only after tasting creating cidre with different taste profile suitable for various palates and dishes. Example: This is how Benoit from Domaine Lesuffleur makes his cidre. Instead of pressing and fermenting all apple varieties in one tank, he ferments the juice obtained from each apple variety in a separate tank and subsequently blends them creating sophisticated and absolutely delicious cidre, the champagne of apples. Trust me, taste-wise cidre made by Benoit has nothing in common with the most locally produced cidre. But I have to warn you. Once you try a cidre from Benoit, there is no way back to a regular Normandy cidre.
  • What I’m going to propose may sound controversial but I think that the price for a bottle of Normandy cidre is too low. With the current retail price for a 75cl bottle in a range of 3.5-4.5 EUR, increasing the price could be a smart business strategy. This is a psychological thing. People simply more appreciate products that have a higher price tag. Example: At Domaine Dupont, a 37.5cl bottle of a cider aged in calvados barrels cost at approx. 6 EUR. Despite relatively high prices for their ciders and other products, their store was packed at the time of my visit and the salespersons were very busy barely finding time to serve you (although they were really trying hard).

Summarizing, I thought I came to a land of absolutely amazing cidre tradition dating back to the 8th century but as it turned out cidre is still underestimated and treated here as a beverage that is much less worth than wine or beer. Although cidre is sold practically everywhere, it’s not treated the way it deserves. However, changes are slowly coming. The new generation of cidre producers is trying to change the image of cidre using different approaches in terms of making cidre but also serving or pricing cidre. I may only wish that more cidre makers will join the cider revolution in France. Viva la révolution du cidre!

In the next blog post, I will share with you the recap of my visits to cider producers on the route du cidre in Normandy. So stay tuned!img_1086


7 Ciders for Valentine’s Day

February is here, which simply means that Valentine’s Day is getting nearer. I’ll solve your cider dilemma for this evening by picking seven versatile ciders packed in an elegant bottle. All ciders I’ve selected for this occasion are either sparkling or still and have a clear sophisticated taste suitable for every palate. Each of them has the right balance of sweetness/dryness, acidity, gentle tannins and lack of any notes that could be considered by some as unpleasant such as wild/barnyard, nail polish or vinegar. More importantly, all pair well with food that can be served at a romantic dinner. And, all are to die for.

Each cider is listed first by cidermaker, then by label name & year if applicable, region & country, and apple variety if known. 

img_7030Ramborn Cider, Avalon 2015, Luxembourg – a blend of 82 apple varieties

You can’t go wrong with any cider crafted by Caroline from Ramborn. But with the exquisite Avalon I assure you that the person to drink the Avalon will experience pure heaven with each sip. The Avalon is very well-balanced on the palate, with a long, and pleasant lingering finish. The level of both sweetness and acidity is just right. Moreover, the Avalon comes in an extremely inviting packaging, which makes it an elegant gift for this occasion. My personal recommendation. For the full review click here.

img_9192SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”, Premium Brut, Turkuma, Latvia – a blend of three Latvian apple varieties

Refreshing and balanced lemon-like acidity with a broad palate make the Premium Brut from Abavas indeed a perfect bubbly for a romantic candlelight dinner. Not to mention the beautiful bottle. Premium Brut tastes like a quality sparkling white wine made from white grapes with pleasant and refreshing notes of fresh apples. Since the Premium Brut is not too dry it can be appreciated by a wider audience. A very pleasant pour that will help to create a romantic atmosphere. For the full review click here

img_8527-1Gutshof Kraatz, Wilde Kerle 2016 – Uckermark, Germany – a cuvée of apples growing in the wild

Fruity, apple forward, with soft tannins, fruity apple forward palate along with exceptionally long and lingering aftertaste make this Apfelwin from Gutshof Kraatz an elegant evening companion. The Wilde Kerle is simply perfect if you want to impress your better half by serving an excellent tasting Apfelwein. Fantastic for slowly sipping will pair well with any kind of food. For the full review click here.


img_7574-2West Milton, Lancombe Rising – Dorset, UK – a cuvée of Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey

One of the few UK’s producers of keeved cider, West Milton created Lancombe Rising, a cider with an extraordinary and extremely rich palate of dried fruits, red apple and light citrus flavours with the right level of sweetness. Suitable for all palates. For the full review click here.



img_8231De Vergeten AppelMoesj 2016, North Brabant, the Netherlands – a cuvée of apples coming from MDe Bilt, Schijndel and Susteren

Due to high carbonation and a clear, vinous and fruity taste of the Moesj 2016 with notes of crisp apples and citruses I can easily name this Dutch cider crafted by the passionate cider-maker, Johan Holleman from De vergeten Appel, a prosecco among ciders. Moesj 2016 has the right level of acidity with a nice breadth of flavours that can be appreciated by everyone who decides to drink this beauty. Highly recommended! For the full review click here.


img_6238Doz de Dauzanges, Cidre Rosé, Normandy, France – a cuvée of apples and pears

With only 2% of ABV Cidre Rosé from Doz de Dauzanges is a pleasant and refreshing offering as it’s not too sweet due to the elegant red berries-like acidity balancing out the sweetness. Also, Cidre Rosé is suitable for those, who are looking for clear cider without notes of funk or strong tannins, are just looking for a change or want to finish the evening with a light bubbly. For the full review click here.


img_6525-1Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob Lebel, Schöner von Herrenhut and Kaiser Wilhelm

Both the palate and the nose of this Apfelschaumwein are intensely rich, with good structure and depth. Taste wise somewhere between French cidre, German Apfelwein and dry Champagne with a strong but balanced acidity. One of my picks for an enjoyable romantic dinner. For the full review click here.


The Top 10 Ciders of 2017

As we wrap up another year, it’s time to look back at some of the most memorable ciders reviewed in 2017. It so happens that also my first year of blogging comes to a close. So I thought I’ll share with you my thoughts on 2017 from a perspective of a Berlin-based cider blogger.

First of all, I’ve met many inspiring people who taught me many things about cider, opened my eyes to the challenges and issues related to cider making and distribution and sales of the finished product in Europe. Thank you for sharing so many interesting stories and your experience with me!

My second observation is that real/craft cider is always made by passionate people, who not always are skilled and talented as Tom Oliver or Eric Bordelet, but they all share true love to cider and cider making. Some cider makers have a great potential for development but their cider still requires some improvement. Sometimes their cider just needs more time…

In addition, it was fascinating to see how the taste of cider might change with every batch. For example, Polish cider Japko (see the review here) I have tried in 2016 tasted much better than this year’s batch.

Last but not least, I’m proud that I have managed to bring together cider lovers from many European countries. Countries not always having a deep-rooted history of cider making. But as it turns out, cider brings people together! This is why the information about closing InCider Bar in Prague at the end of 2017 hit me really hard. InCider Bar was a unique place in Europe and will be sorely missed. But life goes on and cider drinkers can still meet at cider-themed events such as Slavnost Cideru in Prague, where you can talk to other cider lovers sharing their passion for cider just like you do. Btw, next year you can meet me on January 26th at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2018.

But let’s get to the point. In 2017 I’ve reviewed around 200 different ciders mainly from Europe, but also from Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. Some of them were exceptional and I couldn’t get enough of them, some of them went down the sink drain. And trust me, it was a real challenge to select only 10 out of over 200 ciders I have sampled (incl. cider tastings, cider festivals and ciders tried in Canada). So after long discussions (with myself) I have put together the top ten best ciders I’ve tried in 2017. I’ve selected ciders that are still available so you can purchase them and make your own opinion about them. The ciders are in alphabetical order by cider maker. Cheers and a happy cider year 2018!

  • A.K. Cider, Limonka, Vizovice, the Czech Republic, made from Jadernicka moravska (Pépin de Moravie)



I’ve tried a number of Czech ciders this year, mainly at Slavnost Cideru 2017, but Limonka crafted by Martin from A.K. Cider was one of the best. Limonka has a complex structure and each note is nicely balanced not dominating over another. Not entirely dry, but also not too acidic Limonka is just perfect for a larger audience. I loved it! For the full review click here.


  • Chyliczki, Cydr Lodowy 2015, Masovia Poland

17410099_10154996658845915_458951715_nMy first acquaintance with ice cider made by Polish Cydr Chyliczki Was at the cider tasting organised by Przemek Iwanek from Piwo i Cydr in Warsaw. I was instantly blown away by Chyliczki’s ice cider. The only cider so far that got 6 out of 6. High acidity beautifully balancing out the sweetness makes this cider drinkable for everyone. Plus the flavour of baked apples and spices. Fantastic! For the full review click here.

  • Divoke Jablko, Cidre Brut, Klatovy District in the Plzeň Region, Czech Republic



The most frequently consumed cider at Slavnost Cideru 2017, at least by me. Lovely citrusy notes of blood orange, lemon and grapefruit with a hint of funk add complexity and make this cider very quaffable. A cider for everyone. For the full review click here.



  • Dorset Nectar, Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, UK,  blend of Brown, Dabinett, Coate Jersey, Michelin, Tremletts Bitter, Taylor, Chesil Jersey, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master’s Jersey, Yarlington Mill and Porter’ Perfection



Old Harry Rocks is like a jazz jam session, where each flavour would play it’s own music at the same time creating a wonderful, balanced, and unique piece. Lovely refreshing due to citrusy flavours and rustic to light funky notes. A masterpiece! For the full review click here.



  • Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob Lebel, Schöner von Herrenhut and Kaiser Wilhelm



Both the palate and the nose of this Apfelschaumwein are intensely rich, with good structure and depth. Taste wise somewhere between French cidre, German Apfelwein and dry Champagne with a strong but balanced acidity. One of my favourites. For the full review click here.



  • Gutshof Kraatz, Wilde Kerle 2016 – Uckermark, Germany – a cuvée of apples growing in the wild



Soft tannins, fruity apple forward palate along with exceptionally long and lingering aftertaste make this Apfelwin a clear finalist and one of my favourite ciders. Perfect for slowly sipping will pair well with any kind of food. For the full review click here.




This is the only Irish cider that made it to the top ten. But Longueville House Cider tastes really sophisticated and exceptional at the same time. It’s beautifully balanced with lots of depth and rich flavours complementing each other. This cider will simply appeal to everyone. Not too sweet, not too dry, not too sour and not too funky. Pure heaven! For the full review click here.



  • Perry’s Cider, Grey Heron, Somerset, UK, a blend of Redstreak and Dabinett



I guess that any cider produced at Perry’s would taste glorious. It was already difficult for me to choose between the Grey Heron and The Barn Owl, which I’ve sampled in 2017. In the end, I’ve chosen the Grey Heron cause I will never forget the first sip of this cider. Lovely complex, with intensive taste, strong tannins and multiple flavours. Sweet but yet very drinkable. Unforgettable. For the full review click here.


  • Ramborn Cider, Farmhouse, Luxembourg – a blend of Erbachhofer, Holzapfel and Wiesenapfel



Perhaps there is only one cidery in Luxembourg but a cidery producing outstanding ciders from locally available apple varieties. Farmhouse made it to the top ten although their Avalon Vintage 2015 tasted also spectacular, yet is not as widely available as the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse is a perfect marriage of oaky whisky notes with a crisp red apple. With every taken sip I could hear the angels singing. For the full review click here.




There are many producers of sidra in Asturias but only 1947 Sidra Natural from Viuda de Angelon tasted good enough to be mentioned here. Nicely balanced sidra with a spectacular palate. Dangerously drinkable, will make you empty the bottle in no time. For the full review click here.

8 Sparkling Ciders for New Year‘s Eve

Last year I chose to celebrate New Year’s Eve with cider instead of champagne or sparkling white wine. It turned out to be a splendid idea as I didn’t have to force myself to drink a super dry champagne though I still had the pop. If champagne is not your drink of choice, as it is in my case, I am encouraging you to raise a glass of cider instead on New Year’s Eve. To help you with it I have selected the most amazing and delicious sparkling ciders out of those reviewed over the entire 2017.

I have tried many ciders suitable for this occasion, but I have compiled only 8 of picks that you pop open a bottle. It’s New Year’s Eve after all. You’d be surprised that not all of them are French.

Each cider is listed first by cidermaker, then by label name & year if applicable, region & country, and apple variety if known. 

Joachim Döhne, Apfelschaumwein Brut 2013 – Hesse, Germany – a cuvée of Boskoop, Jakob img_6525-1Lebel, Schöner von Herrenhut and Kaiser Wilhelm

Both the palate and the nose of this Apfelschaumwein are intensely rich, with good structure and depth. Taste wise somewhere between French cidre, German Apfelwein and dry Champagne with a strong but balanced acidity. One of my favourites. For the full review click here.



Dupont, Organic Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie 2011 – Normandy, ‘France – a cuvée of 13 varietiesCidre Bouche Organic Dupont

Out of the better-known French cidre names, Dupont will provide complex richness with beautiful appley taste accompanied by citrus and funky notes. The most complex and extraordinary French cidre I have ever tried. Bouche is an elegant, light and smooth cidre for those having a sweet tooth.  For the full review click here.



West Milton, Lancombe Rising – Dorset, UK – a cuvée of Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jerseyimg_7574-2

One of the few UK’s producers of keeved cider, West Milton created Lancombe Rising, a cider with an extraordinary and extremely rich palate of dried fruits, red apple and light citrus flavours with the right level of sweetness. Suitable for all palates. For the full review click here.



Guzman Riestra, Sidra Brut Nature – Asturias, Spain


Made using the Champagne Method, Sidra Brut Nature from Guzman Riestra has an exceptionally sophisticated and balanced palate full of refreshing citrus fruits and ripe apples. Every sip reveals a new taste and is like an in-depth exploration of many layers of flavours. Dry with some residual sweetness will appeal to larger audiences. For the full review click here.



Eric Bordelet, Sidre Brut Tendre 2014 – Normandy, France

img_8429Eric Bordelet’s Brut is a classic among cider lovers. Wonderfully expressing cidre with an exceptional and extremely long finish full of baking spices that linger on and on. This cidre is not too sweet but still, it tastes almost like an ice cider or dessert wine. It has a nice level of acidity to it balancing the sweetness. One of a kind. For the full review click here.




Mayador, Produccion Limitada Cosecha 2014 – Asturias, Spain

img_6670This bright and apple-forward sidra is a delicious example of a sidra that can be enjoyed not only by local Asturians but also by cider lovers from other regions of the world. You’ll find aromas of citruses and herbal notes, crisp acetic-acidity, and tannins on the palate. Every bottle has its own number so you know that you are drinking something special. For the full review click here.



Kliment, Demi Sec 2014 – Central Bohemia, Czech Republic


A remarkable sparkling cider from the Czech Republic. Rich, mouth-filling and relatively high in residual sugar, with notes of baked apples, this cider is perfect for those who prefer their ciders on the sweet side. For the full review click here.




Kerné, Cidre Le Kerné – Brittany, France


I like this cidre for its elegance and rustic character without intense funk, in contrast to many French ciders that are quite sweet, and because it has complex notes of dried fruits, baked apples with nice appley flavour. For the full review click here.





Why cider from overseas is easier​ to get in Berlin than European cider?

Last weekend I was wandering around Berlin looking for bars and shops stocking real cider. Most bars offered the usual commercially available ciders from Aspall or Strongbow, which I refuse to drink. But then, in Neukölln, an upcoming multicultural district of Berlin, I discovered a craft beer bar called Muted Horn and made there a very interesting observation. I was standing at the bar and looking at the list of ciders available in bottles when I discovered that apart from Welsh cider, Gwynt y Ddraig they stock cider from the US company Starcut Ciders, which is based in Northern Michigan.  I was very much surprised as the distance between Berlin and Michigan is around 7000 km.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-08-21 um 15.44.05

I spoke to the bartender in the Muted Horn and asked him if they offer cider on draught sometimes. I learned that in the past they had another cider from Michigan, the Death Unicorn from B. Nektar Meadery, and also one Canadian cider on draught from Cidrerie Milton, which is located in Sainte-Cécile-de-Milton, Quebec. Wow, another cider from overseas I thought. The distance between Quebec and Berlin is approx. 5.500 km.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-08-21 um 15.46.42

It didn’t stop there. Since I was already in the area of Neukölln, I’ve decided to check out a craft beer store, Lager Lager, which was just a 15-minute walk away from Muted Horn. After having a pleasant chat with the sales guy in Lager Lager, I’ve learned that they would love to stock UK cider, but the import of cider from the UK is just too costly. However, this week they are expecting an overseas container from New Zealand loaded with imported goods, including cider from Zeffer Cider Company. I calculated the distance between Berlin and New Zeland and it is roughly 18.200km! This gave me food for thought…

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I was amazed and couldn’t help but wonder, how is this possible that cider coming from overseas, outside of Europe, shipped from really really far away, is easier to get in Berlin than real cider from e.g. Somerset, UK, which is only 1300km away! Or traditional cidre from Normandy, France, which is even closer at 1100km away from Berlin? How come is Berlin a good enough market for cider companies coming from overseas, but not interesting enough for European cider makers from Bretagne or Asturias? How come a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 20.000km is easier to get in Berlin than a bottle of cider that has to be shipped 1000km, which is only 5% of this route? Shouldn’t the shipping cost be proportionally lower for a cider from Somerset?

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I gave my observation some thought and I see a number of possible explanations for it. Firstly, the vast majority of cider makers operate locally focusing on farmers markets, local cider/beer festivals or supply of local restaurants or pubs. Only occasionally selling products to the US, but ignoring the rest of Europe. Depending on how you look at this matter, you may call it a focus on the regional market or a misfunctioning/limited sales strategy. Secondly, it might be a real-life example of the global village, where you can buy products manufactured 20.000km away without spending 20 hours on a plane. Thirdly,  the overseas cider has just reached the status that wines from Napa Valley once had to fight for. The first explanation is probably the closest to the truth.

Personally, I don’t mind having a glass of hard cider from the US or Canada as long as it’s not from concentrate. Seriously, I’m happy to try a cider from New Zealand without even having to leave Berlin. Lucky me! But, I want to have a choice between cider made in Europe and overseas. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of choosing because, at this moment, the only real cider on draught available in Berlin is from the US and Canada. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the marketing and distribution strategy? I know, a good marketing and distribution strategy cost a substantial amount of money. But look at the Zeffer Cider Company from New Zealand. They needed funding to expand into Asia and raised $1.2 million in a crowdfunding campaign in under a week! See the article here. Learn from them because now they are taking Berlin. How about you? When will you take Berlin?

UPDATE: Just learned that most European cider makers don’t even offer their cider in kegs, not to mention recyclable one-way kegs.

Dear cider makers, please be more flexible and widen your keg offer! Cider drinkers in Berlin want to drink decent cider as well! Don’t leave us with Strongbow being the only cider available on tap :-/