Both of the comparison ciders contain some sweetness, a lot of carbonation, but while Clos Normand is astringent and Etienne Dupont is less so but a bit more funky with some sulfury and barnyard notes, L’Hermitiére splits the difference, with a milder, sweeter up-front apple flavor with a hint of astringency, but with a bit of haze from the bottle-conditioning and some distinctive ‘band-aid’ phenolics. All three have a very mild alcohol component (in the 4-5% range). L’Hermitiére is quite pleasant and complex enough to keep you thinking and exploring without being intensely challenging.
L’Hermitiére is produced by the Plessis family in the Perche, in the southeast portion of the Calvados region of Normandy. They also produce Poiré (Perry) and Calvados. Their website is located here, and they feature the detailed producer list in Charles Neal’s Calvados: Spirit of Normandy, which discusses the region and the family’s history as pertains to apple fermentation.
If you haven’t had any of these ciders, I’d recommend getting all three (assuming you can find them), as together they form a pretty interesting encapsulation of the northern French sparkling ciders. If you’ve had Clos Normand and Etienne Dupont and can’t decide which you’d like tonight, why not go with L’Hermitiére, in which no aspect dominates but several are present? In any case it will be a pleasant choice.
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