While I’ve spent a lot of time and placed emphasis on the pursuit of traditional, dry English ciders, in fact there are multiple other regions of Europe that have their own cider traditions. Of these, Normandy is perhaps the best known, and this is where Clos Normand Brut is produced.
In some ways, it’s similar to some American ciders I’ve tried, such as Blue Mountain’s Estate Winesap Hard Cider, in that’s it’s highly carbonated, dry, clarified, tart, and champagne-like. But that’s where the resemblance ends.
Unlike the thin, monochromatic flavors imparted by the low-tannin table apples that dominate its American counterparts, Clos Normand is complex, astringent, and tannic, yet not harshly so, which is a good thing because it’s low sugar (9g/12oz) and alcohol (4% abv) content do very little to mask any of the apple flavors. I’ve tried some ciders that come across dry and bitter despite having quite a lot of sugar added–and wouldn’t want to try these without that sugar to smooth them out–but that is not a problem here. Clos Normand is incredibly balanced and focused on delivering the essence of its apples without artificial manipulation.
Clos Normand Brut is impressive, likely quite different from most ciders you’ve tried, and I highly recommend it. It gives champagne a run for its money any day, especially considering the price (I paid $7 on sale for a 750ml bottle; generally it seems to run in the $9-$14 range).
Normandy, incidentally, also has a rich tradition of producing apple and pear brandy called Calvados. This is a highly interesting beverage with a fascinating history–one which is well-chronicled by author Charles Neal, whose book, Calvados: The Spirit of Normany, is not to be missed, nor is his video on the subject (which features him in character as ‘Armagnac man’ to amusing, understated humorous effect).
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