Follow the Cider Route through Normandy’s picturesque Pays d’Auge – an idyll of orchards and medieval manor houses. Normandy’s Pays d’Auge is a delightful area of tranquil, unspoilt countryside dominated by apple orchards scattered with medieval half-timbered (colombage) houses and barns.
Get to know the area better by taking the Cider Route, La Route du Cidre,
www.routeducidre.free.fr, a well-signposted trail of about 40 kilometres meandering through Pays d’Auge’s narrow country lanes and picturesque villages.
The 20 cider producers participating in the Cider Route are identified by signs marked Cru de Cambremer, and visitors are welcomed to their cellars and pressing sheds to discover how cider is made and to taste their produce.
Start the trail at Victot-Pontfol about 30km east of Caen where the Dupont family has been creating cider and calvados for four generations, and specialise in vintage ciders and ciders produced using traditional champagne methods.
Next head for the charming market town of Cambremer in the heart of the Pays d’Auge where you will find Pierre Huet Calvados, one of the area’s most celebrated producers of cider, calvados and pommeau.
After visiting the sorting, steeping and pressing sheds, the long, low cellars and the great stills for making calvados, you can taste fragrant apple juice, sweet cider, feisty pommeau and various vintages of calvados.
Continue on the route through St Laurent du Mont, stopping to sample Luc Bignon’s fruity sweet cider and bitter dry cider. Then on to Grandouet where the Grandval family have been producing light, fruity, refreshing cider for countless generations at their manor.
Travel on to St Aubin-Lebizay where the Denis family bottle pale perry alongside tannic farm cider.
And finish in Beuvron-en-Auge, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France with its flower-bedecked half-timbered houses and a colourful collection of creperies, cafes and restaurants.
A fitting end to a tasty tour.
Cider making in Normandy
Normandy has been known for its cider-making since the 12th century. Cider apples come in four varieties, bitter, sweet bitter, sweet and acidic, and along with pears are the basis of a clutch of Normandy tipples that includes cider, pommeau and calvados.
Calvados is a fruit brandy that’s either Pays d’Auge, made from apples or Domfrontais made from pears. Calvados received the Appellation d’Origine Controleé (AOC) label in 1942 in recognition of its quality. Some of Normandy’s other apple and pear-based alcohols also hold this AOC certification:
AOC Pommeau de Normandie is a sweet and light aperitif made from apple juice and calvados aged in oak casks.
AOC Pays d’Auge cider is a fresh and fruity cider. The ciders qualifying for the AOC are marked as Cidre de Cambremer and to qualify must be made using traditional techniques that are applied as strictly as those for wine.