The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2011

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Page 42 of 124

WHAT WE'RE DRINKING The Museum of Cider in Brittany. Pulp Art C Bel Normande cider is an ideal match at Crêpes 'n Crêpes in Denver, Colorado. ARTISANAL CIDER IS THE PRIDE OF BRITTANY AND NORMANDY story and photos by Ben Weinberg ider, or fermented apple juice, is traditionally made in England and Ireland, as well as Spain, Germany, Argentina and Australia. But France is where cider becomes art, particularly in the English Channel provinces of Normandy (the most significant cider region in France) and Brittany (just to the southwest of Normandy and France's second-largest cider brewer). It is here that cider museums abound and gold-hued elixirs are traditionally served in ceramic mugs resembling English teacups. Sparkling is more common than still, alcohol varies from two to eight percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) and flavors vary from dry to sweet. Appearance ranges from cloudy with sediment to completely clear, and colors shade from a light, nouveau yellow through orange to traditional brown. This means that cider pairs perfectly with traditional crêpes and galettes but also many other foods such as omelets, pastries and even fruit-based desserts. Traditional cider starts with apples scratted (ground) into pulp (pomace or pom- mage). Pulp is built into layers (known as cheeses) that form a block, from which must (juice) is squeezed through sweet straw or hair cloth that alternates with slatted ash-wood racks. The must is then strained through a coarse hair sieve and poured into either open vats or closed casks. Fermentation runs at a low 4–16°C (40–60°F). This leads to slower chemical reac- tions and less loss of aroma. Shortly before all of the sugar is consumed, the liquor is racked (siphoned) into new vats, which leaves dead yeast cells and other waste at the bottom of the old vat. Subsequent fermentation of remaining or added sugar generates a small amount of carbon dioxide that forms an additional protective layer, further reducing air contact and also creating a bit of carbonation. Cider is ready to drink after three months, though it is often matured for up to three years. Higher-quality ciders are often made using the méthode champenoise, which allows natural carbonation but is expensive and requires special corks and bottles. Many U.S. restaurants now include French cider on their beverage lists, and some even feature the brew. Kevin Russell, Manager of the downtown location of Crêpes 'n Crêpes in Denver, Colorado, says that nonalcoholic ciders from Normandy are a big hit with his customers. "Imported alcoholic ciders can be quite expensive, but alcohol-free versions are clean, refreshing and pair with just about any dish we can create. I especially like cider with salmon, whether smoked or grilled." French cider and its derivatives are worthy drinks, easily the equal of many beers and sparkling wines in aroma, flavor and texture. They are incredibly food- friendly and deserve consideration on any beverage list. For Ben Weinberg's recommended ciders, see 42 / the tasting panel / september 201 1

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