Posted by Amy Neyer, CSW, WSET Advanced Certified
One of the high points of summer for me is watching the annual Tour de France broadcast on cable early each morning and the wonderful three-week showcase of art, agriculture, history, and culture. The cycling’s pretty good, too.
So as the Tour rolled through Normandy last week, how fitting (and ironic) that I got a call from longtime wine friend, Katie Schoeny, to try a pair of new offerings from …you guessed it … Normandy. Some of you may recall Katie from The Wine Merchant and then Vintner Select. After a hiatus, she’s back in the wine business with Vanguard Wines.
When considering notable wine-making regions in France, Normandy is not top of mind. While grapes may not find a friendly home in the cooler climes of Normandy, orchard fruits of apples and pears certainly do. And where there’s apples and pears, deliciousness is sure to follow. Let me introduce you to French sparkling Sidre (the traditional spelling for cider in Normandy) and Eric Bordelet, a former sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris.
Bordelet wanted to return to the family farm and create a sparkler using what nature had provided – estate-grown heirloom apples and pears from old-vine orchards – and using old school techniques, reflecting the land’s granite/schist terrior. It also doesn’t hurt to have Didier Dagueneau, Loire Valley winemaking icon, as your mentor.
The result: a pair of delicious Sidres made in the approach and style of grower Champagne. These sparklers offer a fun and interesting alternative this summer but may be more so this fall as the warm days grow cooler and the bounty from the farmer’s markets turns to pears and apples. Made with little or no interference from the winemaker (i.e., native yeasts and no added sugars or sulfur) and low alcohol, the Sidres are a versatile pairing across lots of food occasions, especially charcuterie and cheeses. You’ll want to serve them ice cold to maintain freshness and fizz.
Sidre Brut: Bordelet hand harvests 15 heirloom varieties of apples from bitter to sweet that are left to dry and ferment naturally in the bottle after pressing. While the skins remain on to provide tannin and texture, the apples offer highly concentrated flavor and color. Not surprisingly, it is full of apple but also citrus and spice notes. While you might expect sweet, it is, in fact, a dry wine with just 2 grams per liter of residual sugar and 7% alcohol. Sidre Brut loves a little heavier fare such as buckwheat crepes and ham and cheese for summer brunch but should also pair wonderfully with roasted pork and apple dishes in the coming fall months. Price: $13.99.
Poire Authentique: Bordelet draws from 15 heirloom pear varieties and uses the same technique as in Sidre Brut while also abstaining from adding any influences such as sulfur and sugar. Here, the fresh fruit does all the talking, drawing you in for the crisp, clean finish. I liked the Poire more for an apertif and perfect companion to a light bite, especially cheeses of the native lands such as Camembert and chevre. Add some sliced farmer’s market apples and pears and a fresh baguette. Mon Dieu! With just 4.4% ABV, you’ll actually have to work for that post-snack nap. Price: $14.99
Both of these Sidres are distributed by Vanguard Wines and can be found at selected stores around town, including The Wine Merchant, Dutch’s Larder, The Winds restaurant and the Dorothy Lane Market in Springboro.
Check back soon for the conclusion of Summer Caught and Stoppered.