You know, we don't just do wine here at Modern Wine. No ma'am, we do booze too, and even that gluten-free appley miracle known simply as cider.
With all of the hype around ciders these days, it's kind of amazing that more companies haven't been bringing in classic ciders from northern France - specifically Normandy and Brittany, the two French regions best known for great farmhouse ciders. There are a couple of French cider brands (Eric Bordelet being one) that have been circulated by wine distributors, but I don't see a lot of them in the market yet. Most of the large beverage distributors are probably more keen on developing their own brands or simply purchasing an existing American company. At a relatively low alcohol, most cider in the US will be distributed by beer companies that service markets where beer is sold separately from wine and spirits. These traditional French ciders are generally packaged in 750 ml wine bottles instead of six-packs, so they sometimes receive slightly different treatment. Of course many craft brews are sold in 750 ml bottles these days as well.
The Illinois-based Winesellers, Ltd. best known for importing wines brands like Zuccardi / Santa Julia (Argentina), Hope Estate (Australia) and Dr. Pauly Bergweiler (Germany), but they recently picked up a few French artisan ciders from Normandy and Brittany for distribution, and they're really lovely.
Manoir de Grandouet Cidre Fermier Brut ($15) This one takes me back to the first French cider I ever tried. I was in France as a high school student and having lunch with my French teacher who was kind enough to indulge me in a small bottle of locally made cider. I may have been slightly underage, but this was an important part of the culture for me to understand... Dry, robust and slightly earthy, this is a classic fermier or 'farmer' cider. There's a good bit of sulfur in the nose, but it does blow off a bit in the glass and is probably necessary for keeping a 5% alcohol cider safe in overseas shipping. Overall, I like this cider a lot. Very authentic stuff in the best possible way. Made by Stephane and Lucile Grandval, producteur / fermier.
Le Brun Organic Cidre ($12) Whoa! This stuff is incredibly fresh and delicious! It has a beautiful bright orange hue and fresh, very fruity apricot, apple, yeast and lavender flavors with just the right sparkle of natural effervescence. It's only 4% alcohol, organically grown, hand-picked and unpasteurized. I'm just amazed that you can ship a product like this internationally and it can hold up so unbelievably well. My two neighbors and I devoured a 750 ml bottle in about ten minutes. Made in Brittany since 1955.
Domaine de la Minotiere Brut Cidre Fermier Bio ($12) Lager drinkers will appreciate this very dry, elegant organic cider with fresh apple and citrus notes followed by just a hint of fennel and umami earthiness. The carbonation is lively and though light on the palate, it has a lingering finish. 5% alcohol.
Domaine de la Minotiere Doux Cidre Fermier Bio ($12) This organic Normandy cider is labeled sweet ('doux'), but it really isn't that sweet by American standards. I has just a hint of sweetness with pleasing apricot and fresh grass notes and reminds me of applesauce with a hint of cinnamon.