Monday, February 3, 2014

Cider Review: L'hermitiere Cidre Demi-Sec (AKA My First Review of a Normandy Cider!)

 I wish I had a lot more information to share about this cider. I found it at a local bottle shop (a new spot call Pop a Top) in Gainesville, Florida while visiting and saw it listed on the drink menu at Stubbies and Steins (which happens to have the best selection of cider and beer of any bar or restaurant in town). L'hermitiere Cidre Demi-Sec has an ABV of 4%. It comes in a 750ml bottle like many fine ciders of all stripes and traditions.

What I can do is talk just a little bit about the Normandy style to give some context to this review. Mind you, I also want to share the caveat that this is my understanding of Normandy ciders. Please don't come after me with barrels and pruning shears if you don't like what you read.

When different regional styles are discussed apple choices, tannins, acidity, sweetness, and effervescence are usually considered among other factors. Normandy ciders frequently have high levels of tannins and use cider varieties of apples. Though there can be some variance in sweetness, most Normandy ciders are either sweet or semi-sweet; I would be surprised by anything bone dry. These tend to be low acidity ciders by and large. Fermentation usually is completed within the bottle, so all sparkle or effervescence is naturally occurring. I also tend to note some degree of farminess to either aroma or flavor but that can be either subtle or pronounced. I like a fair amount, but that's just me.

Okay, on to tonight's cider!

Appearance: hazy, warm honey, plenty of active bubbles
This has a beautifully warm appearance that comes from the depth of color and haziness in the L'Hermitiere Demi-Sec. As the photo shows, it has plenty of bubbles and shortly before the photo was taken the cider briefly had a bright white head of foam that vanished quickly. 

Aromas: ripe apples, wet hay, with a hint of sourness

This has a very moderate and pleasant level of farmyard to the aroma. I can get leather, cheese, and hay in there, but all underneath the more predominant smells of ripe apples and yeast.

Sweetness: Semi-sweet/sweet

This is absolutely on par for a Normandy cider. It has plenty of sweetness, but it doesn't harm the complexity or the mouthfeel. That's what I like in good quality sweet ciders. The flavors are rich and fruity and completely natural.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: Fruit, oak, tannins, and sweetness

This tastes like it was aged in neutralized oak barrels, ie barrels that have been used again and again. The funk from the smell is back in the flavor in a way that definitely suggests some Brettanomyces in one or more strains. I love it, but I'm not sure all American cider fans would want that because it isn't exactly like the super clean ciders that lots of quality United States cider producers are selling. The fruit is very approachably apple with hints of cherries. It dries out a bit toward the end and the wood notes predominate in the finish.

I loved getting to taste this and share it with too rarely seen friends. It is a great conversation cider and tastes just wonderful both chilled and even after holding it in the glass a while. For foods, I'd have this with seafood perhaps some sweet scallops or lobster. Enhance and appreciate the sweetness and complexity with a food that is also just a touch sweet. I'd not go so far as to name this a dessert cider though. Honestly, it doesn't need any food accompaniment though. Just good company.