Cyril Zangs – Saint-Germain-De-Livet, France

Stats:

  • 3 hectares of standard Orchard with cattle underneath ¾ of the year
  • 17 apple varieties
  • Produces 6000-20,000 bottles/year depending on the harvest
  • Collectively:
    • 25% bittersweet
    • 10% Sweet Acid
    • Rest are sweets

Harvest: All by hand, no tractors used or owned. Shake and collect from ground into 25Kilo onion bags.

These bags are then left to sweat/rest for a 1 month in the cider barn- Though the later harvested fruit will sometimes rest for 2 months.

Blending at the press: Apples are blended at the press to create different editions from the harvest.

Pressing from September through December.

Fermentation in Fiberglass tanks: Does not do the true keeve but racks off repeatedly to create the incomplete fermentation.

1) Juice at S.G. 1.060 into tank with no temp control all ambient dependent.

2) before losing 5 points rack off

3) rack off 4-5 times to achieve a fermentation rate of 1.002/week

4) bottle at S.G. 1011-1.014

5) bottle condition for 2-3 months

6) Move to riddling racks and compact yeast with standard riddling technique.

7) disgorge, and top off, and cork and cage

Notes: really moldy ceilings, tiny space, delightfully aromatic ciders with a low acid high tannin profile. Slight hints of tobacco resounding.

CYRIL ZANG WITH RICK FROM LIBERTY CIDER WORKS.
CYRIL ZANG WITH RICK FROM LIBERTY CIDER WORKS.
zangs-03

Ecusson – Livarot, France

After a lunch that featured a Prosciutto salad that would soon become legend, we made our way to one of the larger cider producers we visited in France. The Ecusson facility had been being used to press and ferment cider since 1919.

We arrived shortly after 1:30pm and immediately put on hairnets and jackets. The bottling line was going to be shutting down at 2pm, so our host – “Head Cider Master” Philipe began our tour by showing us their bottling process. (Despite being one of two facilities in France that made us wear some sort of personal hygiene equipment, the overall cleanliness was still consistent with the rest of France: surprising, to say the least).

SOME STYLISH GENTLEMEN AT ECUSSON.
SOME STYLISH GENTLEMEN AT ECUSSON.
TRICK FOR KEEVING MASSIVE VOLUMES: LEGENDARY PROSCIUTTO SALAD.
TRICK FOR KEEVING MASSIVE VOLUMES: LEGENDARY PROSCIUTTO SALAD.

The bottling line was a large, rotary line capable of cranking out 12,000 bottles an hour. The line is capable of both 750ml and 330ml bottles - On this day they were packaging 750ml bottles. Like most producers in France, the majority of their production was ending up in green 75cl bottles (that were being stored outside before bottling). The entire process included everything from a cork and cage machine (that housed the corks outside in a large silo), to tunnel pasteurizer, a series of bottle labelers, a cardboard case erector, and palletizer. We then were led in to their warehouse that included a lifetime supply of packaged cider, including a variety of brands for different markets and stores. Next, we walked over to begin the tour of their pressing process.

Between September 15 and November 30, this facility receives anywhere between 3000-7000 tonnes a day from surrounding orchards. All of the apples arrive on trucks (not in bins) and are dumped on the cement. The location of where they are dumped is how they are sorting varietals into piles and separating for different product lines. At the time of pressing, they dump the apples in a large cement basin that has a channel of flowing water running through the bottom. This channel serves to both rinse the apples and float them through an underground float facility towards the direction of the grinder.

During this process they are performing quality control checks on the apples, for both maturity and removing foreign objects such as field debris or rocks. They currently have two large piston presses and one smaller press, but they will soon be replacing the smaller press with a third large Bucher press. From there, the must heads to tanks in their cellar. Their cellar was temperature controlled rooms with 9 x 3000 hL tanks. The rate of fermentation would dictate what product it would become, either Brut or Doux. Ecusson had an extensive lab and QC protocol, and was running a variety of tests all year long.

One of the most interesting and unique aspects of our Ecusson visit was a brand new machine they were calling their “continuous keeving machine”. To “keeve”, they are racking through this machine that adds both PME and Calcium chloride and then simulates the initial gas production that comes with the start of fermentation. They are pumping nitrogen bubbles through the must, which is removing the same macro-moleculars that a traditional keeve through a simulated process. This continuous keeve machine allows them to keeve in half the time a traditional keeve would.

Even though they have this fancy new technique, this past year was the first year they had the machine it so they still experimenting are figuring out how to best utilize it. Therefore, their primary keeving technique is adding pectinase to get the macro-moleculars to drop out of suspension and then rack off those. They are, however, also keeving the traditional “chapeau brun” way but in very little quantities comparatively.

 

MASSIVE VOLUMES.
MASSIVE VOLUMES.

Side Note: Employing over 70 people, they are capable on splitting their team into three different groups. The time of year will determine what these teams are doing. For example, around harvest time in the fall two teams will be pressing and one will be in the cellar/lab, while in the spring and summer two (to sometimes all three) will be running the bottling line.

Philipe and his cellar manager guided us through a tasting of their ciders in their retail store and were most generous. They even ran out to the bus to gift us a couple cases of cider for the road!

Le Pere Jules – Saint-Michel d’Halescourt, France

The 40 hectares of fruit bearing property strives to be as self-sustaining as possible by allowing cattle to graze in the orchard. During the multiple month harvest, there is another 40 hectares that the cattle are moved to. Roughly 60 varieties are grown with some of the highest producing trees being 200-year-old pear which yield up to 1 ton per tree in a heavy year. The current cidermaker is 4th generation and another family member is a cooper who makes the barrels that are used in calvados, pommeau, and even some cider fermentation.

After pressing, the juice is held at 8 degrees Celsius to set the chapeau brun and then 12 degrees for fermentation. It takes anywhere between 7-15 days to set the gel on top and if you wait too long it will drop which is considered a failed keeve. Finished product is targeting a minimum 10% acidity and max of 15%. If needed, some yeast can be added to absorb extra nutrients that might make the bottles over pressurized at the end of the process. The desired bottle pressure is 2 bar at 20degrees. Cidermaker shared that he has not had experience with a successful keeving of pear.

IN FRONT OF A TONNEAU THAT WAS COOPERED IN 1781, STILL IN USE FOR AGING CALVADOS.
IN FRONT OF A TONNEAU THAT WAS COOPERED IN 1781, STILL IN USE FOR AGING CALVADOS.
STANDARD ORCHARD INCLUDING STANDARD COWS.
STANDARD ORCHARD INCLUDING STANDARD COWS.

Domaine Drouin – Coudray-Rabut, France

Set in the beautiful Norman countryside, Domaine Drouin is of an average size for most artisan cider and calvados producers. They process close to 200 tonnes of apples per year at their bucolic facility. They have a pretty standard processing operation for what we have seen in Normandy and Brittany. They bring in machine harvested fruit from the ground as it falls off the standard trees throughout the season.

The fruit is processed same day or next day after harvest. The apples are ground through a mill and pressed. There is no specific extended maceration besides the default several hours of rest while the previous press is finishing. Calcium chloride and PME is used to achieve a chapeau brun. There tanks are narrow, high 2000L tanks. We were told that you can not successfully keeve in tanks bigger than 5000L, however we know this to be untrue as we saw keeving tanks up to 300,000L in action and heard of producers using 500,000L tanks.

ONE OF THE BARREL ROOMS AT DROUIN, FULL OF POMMEAU.
ONE OF THE BARREL ROOMS AT DROUIN, FULL OF POMMEAU.
PART OF THE STILL USED FOR CALVADOS PRODUCTION.
PART OF THE STILL USED FOR CALVADOS PRODUCTION.

The juice is kept between 8C-12C while the chapeau brun is being formed. After a complete formation and the presence of clarified juice under the cap, the cider is racked into secondary vessels and allow continue to ferment. Racking and partial filtration are used to keep the speed of the fermentation in check. When the cider drops to the appropriate sugar level for the specific style (brut, demi-sec, etc), then the cider is filtered completely to halt fermentation.

They then send samples of the cider to a wine lab to check if the cider, once packaged, will re-ferment partially then STOP due to lack of nitrogen. If the lab says the cider won't stop, they will have to reduce nitrogen in the cider by allowing fermentation to continue again, and filtering another time. The producer expected a 10g/L drop in sugar levels once the cider was packaged (for carbonation).

Of note, Domaine Drouin did seem to focus much of their efforts into Calvados production.

Domaine du Clos Fougeray – Saint-Michel d’Halescourt, France

211 Route De Pommereux
76 440 Saint Michel D'Halescourt
Phone: 02 35 90 61 39
http://www.domaine-duclos-fougeray.com/

Cidermaker/Guide: Herve' Duclos (owner)

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Fruit: Uses 24 varieties of traditional French cider apples.

Orchard: 18 HA located on an east-facing hillside. Soils mainly Jurassic clay and limestone. Orchard is sheep grazed, no additional fertilizers or amendments used. [Rootstock type?] Orchard is organized by zone, each with associated varietal and/or fruit classification.

Harvest practice: All fruit is allowed to drop. Harvesting by mechanical sweeper. At end of season, hand-shaking of trees is sometimes performed to clear remaining fruit. Harvested apples are sorted on-site by orchard zone, allowing at-press blending by varietal and/or fruit classification.

Fruit processing: At-press blending generally used, with target pH of 3.8. All processing takes place at ambient (outdoor) temperatures. Hammer mill creates blended pomace, fed into bladder press. No maceration procedures per se; pomace often sits 1-2 hours as part of typical cycle pre-press and concurrent with press procedures. Three hour maximum maceration, according to Hervé.

Juice preparation: Uses PME (Pectin Esterase Enzymes) and calcium chloride, added to juice in blending/chilling tank; juice is chilled to approximately 8º C before racking into fiberglass fermentation tanks stored in 8º C cold room. No SO2 added at this time.

Keeve process: Naturally-occurring yeast for all fermentation. Hervé has developed a unique system to lift the chapeau brun, using a flexible impeller pump to introduce ambient oxygen into pump-over stream, helping lift the cap more quickly and reliably than with yeast metabolics alone. Cap lift and development are tracked with aid of translucent strips on side of each tank (non-painted fiberglass surface). Keeved juice racked from bottom, using inline sight glass to monitor racking process, i.e., when cap material appears, juice has been extracted.

Fermentation process: Fermentation occurs at target 8º C. Slow fermentation pace [degrees drop/week?] maintained as required using racking and cross-flow filtering. Final filter cycle used to arrest fermentation at desired SG target.

Maturation/Conditioning: Completed cider packaged with mobile in-line carbonation/bottling machine. Bottle-conditioned variants may utilize cultured yeast. No pasteurization. Bottles are stored on-site in ambient temperatures for aging/conditioning prior to labeling and sale.

HERVE GIVING US THE REAL TALK ON KEEVING.
HERVE GIVING US THE REAL TALK ON KEEVING.

Additional Notes:

  • Following our tour, Hervé had lunch with the group at nearby restaurant Auberge du Beau-Lieu, just outside Forges-les-Eaux, 2 Route du Montadet, 76440 Le Fosse.
  • Hervé was given a bottle of Liberty Ciderworks Manchurian Crabapple cider as a token of thanks.