Herout AOC Cotentin Brut 2015

Review of Herout AOC Cotentin Brut 2015, an Organic French cidre.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their Extra Brut.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Beauchamp Imports / French Cider Inc.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider: Cotentin Brut (2015 harvest)
Cidery:  Herout AOC
Cidery Location:  Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottle
Style:  Organic French cidre, from cider apples, brut (dry)

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Availability:  In Washington, through Beauchamp Imports, plus online at their French Cider Inc. website.  In addition to Cotentin Brut, they also offer Herout’s Cotentin Extra-Brut.

Cider Description:  We are currently offering bottles of the award-winning 2015 vintage, Cidre Cotentin Brut! Hérout à Auvers is the only French cider producer who puts a vintage date on their bottles. The date represents the year the apples where harvested.  Like a fine wine, the flavor evolves with time and we think the 2015 Brut is just about perfect right now.  to heighten the flavor experience,  decant/carafe it before drinking. Cotentin Brut cider is made from 100% organic, naturally-fermented cider apple juice.

Cidery Description:  Since the 1940s, Hérout cidre has been produced by the Hérout family on the Cotentin Peninsula on the Northwest coast of Normandy France, in Auvers, where apples thrive in its lush and oceanic climate.  They are the newest cidre AOC in France, since May 2016.  The cidermaker Marie-Agnes Herout was just awarded the highest civilian honor in France for her 16 years of work getting the AOC recognized – Le Croix de Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur (Knights Cross for the Legion of Honneur).

See here for more information on the cider and here for more information on the cidery.

Price:  n/a (retails for $23.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  the importer Joan Harkins contacted me (we met at Cider Summit Seattle 2017)

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First Impression:  Light orange amber hue.  Moderate carbonation.  Smells of apple, must, funk, and yeast.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, tannins, and funk.  Moderate bitterness.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersharp apple pomace, yeast, orange, and caramel.  Long bitter finish.  Moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  Low sessionability and apple flavor.

My Opinion:  I personally wasn’t a fan.  However, it is a well made cider – just too bitter and dry for my preferences.  Every cider isn’t for everyone, so its great we have so many choices.  This is probably the driest French cider I’ve had (surprisingly I perceived this Brut version as drier than their Extra Brut version).

I’d recommend it for for folks who like French cider, but find most too sweet, as well as wine lovers.  Note that the importer recommended to let this breathe a bit before drinking to bring out more flavor, so I poured a glass and stuck it back in my cellar-temperature cider fridge for a bit.

Most Similar to:  Herout AOC Cotentin Extra Brut

However, for drier French ciders, I personally prefer Cidrerie Daufresne Brut, Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Brut, and Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge Cidre, although those are all a bit sweeter than both Herout selections.

Closing Notes:  If you are a fan of drier ciders, this is as dry as it gets for a French cider!

Have you tried Herout cidre?  What did you think?

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Virtue Cider Michigan Brut

Review of Virtue Cider’s Michigan Brut.  It was my first time trying this, but I’ve previously had their MittenCherry Mitten, and Lapinette.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Virtue.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Michigan Brut
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.7%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American craft cider, Brut (dry), from heirloom Michigan apples, oak aged

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Availability:  year round, in DE, GA, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MO, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, WA, and WI

Cider Description:  Our dry brut is a blend of hand-pressed heirloom apples aged in French oak barrels that features the scent of fresh apples, a touch of oak, and finishes crisp and tart.

See here for more info on the cider.

Cidery Description:  Virtue Cider is a Michigan-based craft cider company.  We produce European-style ciders from fresh apples – never from concentrate – and employ traditional farmhouse production methods that include native and secondary fermentation, use of wild yeasts, and an expansive barrel aging program.

They have a tasting room in Fennville Michigan; see here.

Price:  n/a
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  it showed up

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First Impression:  Still (no carbonation).  Light straw yellow hue.  Smells very mild – dry and tart.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry, but probably just as it was “juicy” tasting (as the label says 0g sugar).  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of juicy green apple, lemon, mineral, yeast, and a non-distinct herbalness.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate to high sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I felt pretty indifferent about this cider, due to the dryness and subtly of the flavor (opposite of my preferences).  If you usually prefer a dry and subtle (food-friendly) cider, I’d recommend it for you.  I didn’t pick up any oak flavor, but I imagine it contributed to the cider’s overall flavor, plus that could have been what helped the cider seem not as dry.

Most Similar to:  Seattle Cider Dry and Ace Joker

Closing Notes:  As far as dry ciders, I have preferred Original Sin Extra Dry.

Have you tried Virtue’s Michigan Brut?  What did you think?

Loic Raison Brut

Review of Loic Raison 1923 Brut, a French cidre.  Its my first time trying this one, although I’ve tried a number of other French ciders.

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Cider:  Brut
Cidery:  Loic Raison
Cidery Location:  Brittany France
ABV:  4.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  French cidre

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Availability:  wide release

Description:  I couldn’t find one.  Note that Brut simply means dry (although at 5 grams of sugar per 8oz this isn’t completely dry).

Price:  $10.49
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  This is one of the major French cidre brands and commonly available in the U.S.

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First Impression:  Deep orange amber.  Very low carbonation.  Smells of bittersweet apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Simple flavor notes, just apple juice and yeast.  Quick finish.  High apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  This was nice and definitely easy to drink, but it tasted flat (like it used to have higher carbonation) and overly juice-like.  I’d rather pay half as much and pick up some Dan Armor at Trader Joe’s, or better yet, as it is in single serve bottles, Celt.

Most Similar to:  Dan Armor and Celt, which are also both Brittany France cidre varieties.  They have a very similar flavor profile to Loic Raison, but a higher carbonation and lower cost.

Closing Notes:  I’m a fan of Brittany more than Normandy France cidres,  Brittany cidres are typically apple & yeast forward, clean (no funk or sourness), and have a higher carbonation level.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?

Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut Cider

Review of Finnriver’s Artisan Sparkling Brut cider, made using the traditional labor intensive méthode champenoise.  I’ve tried a good portion of Finnriver’s lineup, but I think this is the first time I’ve tried a special release cider.

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Cider:  Artisan Sparkling Brut
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  8.0%
How Supplied:  375ml corked & caged champagne bottle (also more widely available in a 750ml size)
Style:  American méthode champenoise sparkling cider

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Availability:  In general, Finnriver ciders are sold in WA, OR, CA, AZ, NV, TX, IL, CO, and Alberta & BC Canada (detailed info here).  They also have an online store (which can ship to WA, OR, CA, AK, CO, MN, FL, & WA D.C.).  However, this is a special release, and likely has more limited availability.

Cider Description:  Crafted using the traditional, labor-intensive méthode champenoise, this bright, naturally carbonated brut champagne-style cider offers an effervescent apple bouquet, tart elements of the orchard, and a crisp, clean finish.  To make this cider, we learned old world methods of secondary fermentation in the bottle that require daily hand turning of each bottle on woodenriddling racks (constructed by our boat-building neighbor Pete), and then disgorging residual yeast sediment one bottle at a time.  This is ‘slow cider’ that results in golden clarity and enduring bubbles in every glass.  A unqiue alternative to champagne that features Washington organic dessert apples at their most sparkling!

Cidery Description:  At Finnriver we gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you farmcrafted hard ciders and spirited fruit wines. We are inspired by the allure of the fruit, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive.  Our mission is to inspire a deeper connection to the land that sustains us….Some of these ciders are small-batch, seasonal and labor-intensive. Others are produced with contemporary methods and more readily available year-round…Finnriver grows over twenty varieties of traditional and heirloom apples in our organic orchard, to feature in our traditional and specialty ciders.

They have a tasting room open seven days a week, noon to 5pm, and are on the Olympic Pennsylvania cider route along with Eaglemount and Alpenfire cideries.  I look forward to visiting in February for my birthday!

Price:  $10
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been wanting to try this cider for awhile, but previously only saw 750ml bottles for about $22, which was more commitment then I was interested in.  When I saw half bottles, I knew it would be perfect to try for New Year’s Eve.  Oddly enough the half bottles were less expensive per ounce too.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Very high carbonation.  Smells dry, crisp, and of yeast, with only a hint of apple.

Tasting Notes:  Completely dry.  Moderate acidity and tartness.  No sourness, bitterness, or funk.  Very champagne-like.  Yeast, floral, citrus, and green apple notes.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.  Moderate sessionability.  Low apple influence.  I enjoyed this cider better as it warmed up from fridge cold.

My Opinion:  This was enjoyable, but not really a style I enjoy (I like a sweeter and richer cider).  It was definitely a sparkling cider, moreso than any other cider I’ve tried I think (but luckily the bottle didn’t overflow when I opened it…the bottle even includes a warning).

Most Similar to:  Dry champagne and other méthode champenoise ciders.

Closing Notes:   This cider is a great champagne alternative and was very appropriate for New Year’s Eve.

Have you tried Finnriver Artisan Sparkling Brut cider?  What did you think?

Le Pere Jules Brut

Review of Le Pere Jules’ Brut 2012 cider, from Normandie France.

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Cider:  Brut
Cidery:  Le Pere Jules
Cidery Location:  Normandie France
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottle
Style:  French cidre

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Availability:  Semi-wide release (apparently one of the easier to find French ciders in the U.S.)

Cider Description:  Our cider is produced from no less than 20 different varieties of apples. This gives it a very nice balance between the sweet, bitter and acidic varieties. After a fermentation process that is modified in its length to produce the “brut”, “demi-sec” and “doux” varieties, and a light filtration, it is bottled in order to naturally develop its own natural gas. This gives it the fine bubbles that we are known for.

Cidery Description:  It was upon his return from the First World War in 1919 that Jules Desfrièches – who had already earned the nickname of “Père” Jules or “Father” Jules – with a love for his region and its apples, decided to turn his passion into his trade. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his grandparents, who were themselves in love with Normandy and its treasures. With their help, Jules learned to make cider with the apples from the family farm. He then started to sell his products locally. Due to the appreciation for its quality, the “Jules Desfrièches” cider was more and more in demand in restaurants in Normandy. Then in 1923, Jules distilled Calvados for the first time, without knowing that it was the beginning of an institution.  

In 1949 his son, Léon Desfrièches, joined the family business. On his arrival, he created the brand “Le Père Jules,” in honor of his father. The production continued to expand and the market for cider and calvados developed to the point of being sold in some of the best restaurants in France.  Thierry Desfrièches, the grandson of “Père”Jules joined his father in the business in 1976. With a careful eye on the business and its evolution, the first export sales were started in 1980 in Europe and then later throughout the world.  The son of Thierry, Guillaume Desfrièches, joined the family business after he finished his studies in oenology in 2002 to become the fourth generation in the affair.  Since 1919, quality and rigor are the driving forces of four generations of producers that have continued to be faithful to the traditional methods with a love for their work. Their only wish is to be able to propose the best products.

Price:  ~$12
Where Bought:  World Market
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I hadn’t spotted it at World Market before, only commercial cider (although apparently other World Market locations carry craft cider), and was intrigued as I’ve been getting into French ciders.  I’ve since also spotted it at the Schilling Cider House in Seattle.

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First Impression:  Honey-orange amber hue.  Still.  Smells of bittersweet apples, orange, honey, cork, funk, and sourness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Moderate bitterness, sourness, and acidity.  Low tartness and funk.  Light to medium bodied.  Long finish.  I found the flavor to be completely off, bad, bizarre, etc…I have no better way to describe it.

My Opinion:  I couldn’t tolerate more than one sip, and was totally not a fan.  And my husband literally spit out his sip.  Down the drain it went.  A friend of mine described a similar flavor to this cider, saying no one at the dinner party would drink it, yet I’ve seen reviews quite to the contrary online.  I think it having no carbonation is a sign of something being wrong, as this cider is supposed to be a sparkling.  So, I conclude this was likely a “bad bottle”.  Its unfortunate this happens to even the best cidermakers a certain percentage of the time, and if its someone’s first exposure to a cider from that brand, they may not give them another chance.

Closing Notes:   Although I have significant doubts as to this being a good sample from Le Pere Jules, this continues the trend of me only liking French ciders from Brittany (such as Le Brun, Celt, and Dan Armor), not Normandy (such as Le Pere Jules, Dupont, and Manoir du Parc)….I like the richer sweeter and more carbonated French ciders than those with any funk or sourness.  Note that I considered not posting this review, but I review every cider I drink, not just those I enjoy, and hopefully this isn’t overly negative.

Have you tried Le Pere Jules?  What did you think?