On this page you can find more detailed information about the cider produced during the season 2020. The info will be added based on the cider development, with the "most product specific" description to be expected by September when the cider is ready for sale.
As in the seasons before, I've harvested my apples manually and I tried to buy manually harvested apples. However because of variety of reasons (health issues, time, treasury), I had to also buy around 40% of the apples which were harvested with a small semi-automatic machine and triage done by person mostly on the field. I had to work this year as a seasonal worker in cidrerie Les Vergers de Ducy during the autumn so the time which I could dedicate to my project was more limited. This showed especially during the harvest part. Just to get the taste of the season, I took only three days off from mid of September till mid of December and I worked around or over 300 hours per month. Still all the apples which I processed were harvested in small untreated orchards, part in Val de Saire, Cotentin region and part in the Vale do Seulles, Calvados region. The apples at Vale de Saire region were processed with help of mobile "pressoir à paquets" using local service provider. The other "half" was crashed by pressoir à bande/cylindrical press in place where I work.
In total for this season I've transformed around 18 tonnes of apples resulting in around 110 hl (11 000 l) of moût/juice. Newly I've pasteurized around 600 l as untreated and unfiltered apple juice.
The fermentation of moût/juice was left to the wild yeast present on the apples and in the cave/cellar, no products were added during the course of fermentation (nor before or later). Last season I did some minimal filtration of the cider but this time I've decided to try to skip the filtration completely and I was solely relaying on soutirage/racking, which doesn't interfere/decrease the intensity of colour, fragrance and taste like the filtration does. It is also more in line with the traditional way of making and of what we could call "natural cider". I've no control of temperature at the moment in my cellar so I relay on weather completely which can be quite stressing. The sugar content, expressed by specific density was bit lower this year, lets say from 1040 to 1060 (all densities are given at standard temperature of 20°C) depending on the lot/batch, so bit lower then 2019 season and way lower compared to 2018 season when it was getting close to 1070. As at the previous season there were issues with rather higher temperatures early in the season for fermentation than optimal, which for cider is around 8°C, however thankfully it got colder in January which helped to slow down the cider and I could start to work with it better. At the moment, 6th of May I've finished the bottling completely, I did around 40 hl (4 000 l) in total. I've bottled three main batches this year, one brut with density 1016, one extra brut with density around 1009 and one total brut with density of around 1004. The rest are special batches, micr-cuvés, like raspberry cider, honey cider, buckwheat etc. As already mentioned I've used only racking/soutirages this year and checked the amount of yeast by cell count. The yeast cell count together with curve of density decrease over the time are the two primary factors on which base I decide how to assemble/mix the lots/batches and when I do so.
This year I've decided to bottle around 5 000 of 75 cl bottles and around 1 900 of 37.5 cl bottles, the rest of the cider will go for distillation and vinegar, around 50-60 hl (5 000 - 6 000 l). I've also experimented with cider aged in oak barrels, this time in new ones and not after calvados like last year, just oak. As every year this year I'll be bottled one lot of truly traditional cider which we pressed as the last one in the season using ancient broyer/crasher and click-claque oak press system. It was quite an event, the apples were over riped, the marc sprayed in all direction like in some bad monster movie, it was hilarious!
This year novelty is the usage of higher quality "methode traditionnele" clear bottles which can take up to 10 bars at 20°C. This is a step in the direction of higher safety, the bottles should not explode even if something goes wrong during inter-continental export. Also it gives the product an image of higher quality which I'm trying to build so I can ask price which I need for the project to be successful. And yes, this change is more costly. Once the cider is bottled, prise de mousse naturelle by native yeast takes place building up slowly the carbon dioxide in the bottles up to 2-3 bars if I'm lucky, more than that if I'm not ... This process takes around four months. Especially during the first two months the temperature of around 8 to 10°C is highly desired. So far first month went well. Another two months of similar temperature or lower than 15°C and if all goes well the cider is ready for drinking. If well behaved it stays in the bottle when opened. The planing says that if all goes well the cider will be ready for delivery during August or rather September. It is also safety concern. If the cider is stable and keeps it's two to three bars after the warmer summer season is over, it is way less likely to start to re-ferment when the temperatures are going already down, therefore it is safer to distribute to customers then. As always please keep in mind that the product is alive and if you can do try to keep it stored below 10°C or at least below 15°C. With time the product is more and more stable, the yeast dies off so for example the 2019 season can be kept at room temperature. In general cider suitable for intercontinental export is such which was stored for two summer seasons or more, so around one and half years after bottling, this is considered safe enough to be shipped around the world. There are other techniques of stabilization but we do not discuss them here because I do not use them at the moment.
Non of the ciders which I made this year was filtered, all densities are recalculated for standard temperature of 20°C.
- Assemblage 1, brut traditionnelle - this cider was bottled at density 1016 (at 20°C), it is completely unfiltered closed by bouchon of composite cork of 27 mm and muselet rouge/red. It has very ambre colour, comparable to the brut of 2018, we will see about the effervescence and flavour by August, my hopes are hi, the odeur and flavour during fermentation was nice and fruity.
- Assemblage 2, extra-brut - this cider with density of 1009 (at 20°C) was actually never bottled but used to prepare other assemblages.
- Assemblage 3, extra-brut boissé/woody - this is a very interesting experiment for me. This cider was bottled at density of 1009 (at 20°C) as an extra-brut. Before then it was left to mature in new oak barrels and I hope that the nice woody flavour which it got will be well equilibrated when it finishes it's secondary fermentation in the bottle. Ciders conditioned in oak barrels are hard to get because of the risks of different defects during the fermentation, high price of oak barrels per volume of product and difficulty of work with barrels in general.
- Assemblage 4, brutus or brut-total - another experiment of the year, cider with slightly woody flavour because of aging in new oak barrels bottled at density 1004 (at 20°C) which means that there will be no residual sugar left when the prise de mousse naturelle is finished. The cider should be nicely effervescent and slightly woody when it is done, excellent to drink with food.
Of course I can not fully predict how the prise de mousse naturelle is going to develop but so far for the most important first half of the four months period which this process takes the weather conditions were just perfect, temperatures between 7 to 10°C, I could not ask for more.
- cidre traditionnelle/traditional cider (lot 9) - this is the most difficult and time requiring cider which I make. It was bottled as an extra-brut at 1009, apples crashed by old style broyer using an electric engine, juice made on an old style press "à cliquets" or "à clavettes", pressed by manual force, 300 l of volume. I've my fingers crossed both for cider keeping in the bottle, last year it was an issue I had to recapsule and for the flavour, because it had slightly "fungal" aroma and flavour which were getting better during the fermentation but we will see. Muselet golden green (I call it poisonous green but don't mind me), bottled both into 75 and 37.5 cl bottles.
- cidre mielé/honey cider (assemblage 5) - bottled as brut at 1015, this cider has a local natural honey added (acacia&apple), around 5% (v/v) so when ready it should be nice and sparkling with slight honey odeur and flavour. It will be bit stronger on alcohol, around 6%. Bottled with silvery capsule, both 75 and 37.5 cl bottles.
- honeybee (assemblage 6) - bottled as brut at 1015, again local natural honey (acacia&apple), around 10% (v/v) added. It is a variation on the famous cider with honey from Bretagne called Chouchen - based on opinions of my colleges wrongly described in this article as mead. If all goes well it will be slightly effervescent with strong note of honey. I like to drink it like aperitif, keep in mind this one will be easily around 9% alc. when finished. Bottled with red capsule both 75 and 37.5 cl bottles.
- cidre framboise/raspberry cider (assemblage 7) - this cider was bottled at density 1004 so it will be without any residual sugar when finished. The raspberries added are around 30% organic, rest usual market quality. The raspberries were left to macerate in the cider, strained. The colour is nicely reddish, we will see about the final fizz and flavour. Bottled with golden capsule, both 75 and 37.5 cl bottles.
- cidre gingembre/ginger cider (assemblage 8) - bottled at density 1011 so as extra-brut. This cider has been infused at cold with fresh organic ginger, strained, bit of honey was added and bottled both in 75 and 37.5 cl bottles with golden capsule. When finished it should be fizzy and with really nice gingery flavour.
- cidre fleur de sureau/elderflower cider (assemblage 9) - bottled at density 1005, cider flavoured with home made elderflower syrup (made at cold, 2019 season) and fermented to complete dryness (the syrup and cider are uncertified but bio). It was bottled with golden capsule (with number 9 on it) both into 75 and 37.5 cl bottles.