It is hard to leave Normandy without trying her apple ciders or cidres as they would call it. That would be a utter shame.
This was about the only time when in France that I drink more cider than wine. And then, there is calvados; An apple brandy made in the region that you pray that you won’t get drunk on it though it is certainly comforting and warming to have a touch of it after a heavy meal, just before braving the cold, strong winds on the walk back to the hotel.
The first few days in Bayeux was somewhat une petite introduction to the glories of ciders and calvados that the region has to offer. Lunches were supplemented by bottles of ciders that add a refreshing touch to the meal. They are mostly delicious, crisp, some more so than others.
You might be familiar to Normandy apples or Normandy apple tarts – apples are pretty much synonymous to this region. Hence, it is hardly surprising that this is also the region that produces some of the best cider, in my humble opinion and also its famous counterpart, calvados (only the apple brandy made in Normandy can carry this name).
We dedicated one day to explore the Pay D’auge area in Lower Normandy to do some cider and cheese tasting on our own. Our first stop, however, was this small, picturesque town – Beauvron-en-Auge, that has earn herself the name of one of the most beautiful villages in France. Beauvron-en-Auge is certainly deserving of her accolade. While
most of this village lie on one main street that you can walk end-to-end in 15 minutes, the houses that lined the street are half-timbered style Norman houses that make the whole village exude a quaint picturesque quality unlike any others. There are shops that sells little knick-knacks and an unassuming bakery that sells really good pain aux raisins and chouquettes.
Since it was a cold April morning, we practically had the village to ourselves and I got shutter happy as always. The cold winds and drizzle did nothing to dampen any high spirits I had.
We took the cider route (route du cidre)and headed to Calvados Pierre Huet after our morning walk in Beauvron-en-Auge. We visited the distillery that is housed in a wooden building, with its surrounding apple orchards, to learn about how calvados is made. Calvados Pierre Huet is a five-generation, family run estate that produces calvados, pommeau, ciders.
We tried a whole range of their products, starting with their natural apple juice that is naturally sweet and refreshing. They had a few ciders including a pear one which was nice and crisp.
The pommeau was the surprise. I haven’t had that before coming to Pierre Huet – pommeau is made by combining apple must (or simply juice) and calvados before ageing it in oak barrels. The pommeau made in Pierre Huet is aged for 36-48 months in oak barrels. You will greatly enjoy it if you appreciate port. The pommeau here taste of prunes, raisins and reminds me greatly of a gorgeous tart tartin.
We also did a horizontal tasting of the calvados – things start to get interesting with the vieux reserve 8 years after the alcohol begins to mellow down. The 15 years was smooth and well-rounded, the alcohol doesn’t hit you immediately anymore. It really does get better with age. If you can afford, you can always go for the Cordon Or 30 years (yes, the calvados that has been aged in oaked barrels for 30 years!)
If you have more time, you should most certainly drive along the idyllic route du cidre for a relaxing afternoon. Unfortunately, we did not do that due to time constraints.
After loading up our car with a whole box full of calvados, pommeau and cider, we hit the road towards Livarot – a cheese-making town in Normandy.
We visited the Fromage Graindorge factory that also has a self-guided tour through its cheese making processes. The most famous of its cheeses is of course the Livarot AOC cheese, a washed rind cheese made from cow’s milk and is often characterised by the five rounds of reed that is tied around the cheese. It’s a soft cheese with quite a strong aroma.
While we came looking for Livarot cheese, we unexpectedly found the Neufchâtel coeur AOP cheese (Coeur de Neufchatel) that Graindorge produces as well. It is one of the oldest cheeses in Normandy, and maybe France. The cheese came in the shape of a heart – its texture is similar to a camembert but it posses a stronger, more earthy and nutty flavour. We bought some along the way to have it with some toasted baguette and wine – it was simply delightful!
Lunch was at a small town named Vimoutiers. We ate in this small and cute place called La Héronnière (which translates to the hedgehoge). The food was simple but pretty delicious. Its focus was on local produce sourced from farms in the region – they also have a nice selection of Norman craft beers and organic ciders. The wholewheat pizza is made in a wood fire oven on site.
We headed to Camembert town to taste the namesake cheese but alas – both Maison du Camembert museum and Fromage Durand (another camembert producer) was not open. I’m not sure why because we did check its opening hours but I guess France was just stepping out of winter hence, businesses are taking their time to open its doors to visitors.
Despite being a little disappointed, I suppose we had done enough eating and drinking for one day. We did enjoy our little adventure in Pay D’auge, a lovely area that is worth your attention if you are in Normandy.
(I’ve also included some of the places that we did not visit but would have loved to.)
7km north of the N13 halfway between Lisieux and Caen
Information center: Porte Verte du Pays d’Auge, Relais de la Route du Cidre
2, Esplanade Woolsery
14430 Beuvron en Auge
Tel : 0033 2 31 39 59 14
5 Avenue des Tilleuls
Tel: +33 (0)2 312 63 01 09, contact through website
Domaine Familial Louis Dupont
RD16 14430 VICTOT-PONTFOL
Telephone : 02 31 63 24 2
Opening hrs: 9am to 6pm. E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Manor de Grandouet 14340 CUMBERER
Telephone : 02 31 63 08 73
Opening hrs: 9am to 13:00, 14:00 to 18:30
E-mail : email@example.com
42 Rue du General Leclerec,
14140 Livarot France
Tel: 02 31 48 20 00, E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening hrs: 10am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 5:30pm
Go in the morning to see the workers making the cheese.
Maison du camembert museum
Le Bourg, 61120 Camembert, France
closed on monday. 10am to noon/2pm to 5pm
Visit to learn about how camembert is made. Comes with tasting at the end. 3.5 euro
the last dairy farm in the actual village of Camembert producing true A.O.C. camembert cheese from raw milk, hand moulded with a ladle in the traditional way.
La Heronnière, 61120 Camembert, Orne
Open all year. Open daily from 9:30am to 12:30pm and 3pm to 6pm. Closed on Sundays.
3 rue du Quatorze Juin
Tel: 02 33 12 93 44
Opens: lunch 12 noon to 2pm (Tue to Sat) and dinner (Tue to Sun)