According to the National Association of Cider Markets, the UK is the largest market for cider both globally and across Europe at 45%, with the rest of Europe coming in at 21%. With the sugar tax due to be implemented in 2018, there has been continued growth of consumer interest in the provenance of their food and drink, as well as greater choice in gluten-free and natural food choices, meaning that this market may change as the summer season approaches.

The cider market in France is developing, with the law stating that it must be produced from 100% apples. We spoke to French cider producer 6Somewhere about their foray into the UK market, and how they are providing customers with the provenance behind their beverage.

Inspired by wine : enhancing traditional methods

Premium quality French cider producer 6Somewhere creates three types of cider – the Afternoon Delight (Sweet Cidre), Coup De Foudre (Semi-Dry Cidre) and Amour Fou (Dry Cidre). For over a century cider – or cidre – has been produced by the company in the Normandy region. Director Rik Roberts said: “The Dupont Family have been custodians of La Vignnarie estate, in the Pays d’Auge of Normandy, for more than 125 years. For the past 47 years, Etienne Dupont, and more recently his children, Jerome and Anne-Pamy, have been focusing on continuously improving both their ciders and calvados – an apple brandy.”

“They have developed the techniques that are usually seen in wine/cognac making, specifically to enhance the traditional methods of cidre production. The poor quality of the soil in the Pays d’Auge, which is heavy with lime and chalk, result in the apple trees being relatively ‘bijous’. Consequently, the apples they produce are of commensurate size. The Dupont family could try to increase the yield by using fertilisers made with nitrogen, which would increase the size of the apples, but mostly through water retention. Instead, they embrace the fact that the size tends to lead not only to greater aromatic intensity but also, because of the ratio of pulp to skin, enhanced flavour due to more tannins,” he continues.

The methodology : finalising production and the bottling process

To produce the cider, the company has a well-thought-out process. “We start our harvest around September time, and finish towards mid/late November. We have 13 different types of cidre apples on the estate, ranging from bittersweet to sweet, as well as acid to bitter varieties. We need this range to create the right balance for our various cidres. We only collect the apples when they have fully ripened and as a result we make a number of visits to the same trees to ensure they have reached optimum maturity,” Roberts explains.

“Once collected, the apples are manually sorted to ensure that we dispose of any that are showing sign of rotting, etc. They are then stored in palloxes, which are slatted wooden boxes. Prior to being pressed, the apples are washed and normally, at this point, the apples would be put through a machine with rollers, which literally press the juice out of the apples. However, due to the differing sizes of the pieces, this can lead to bruising and inconsistent juice production. Instead, the Dupont family use a membrane press, more commonly associated with wine-making – theirs is specially modified for cidre making. The milled apples are stirred regularly throughout the process, at low pressure, ensuring that the skin and pulp are pressed in a uniform fashion.”

The liquid is then left for between two to four weeks (depending on the cidre variety) to ferment in the vats before being racked and bottled, with the fermentation being controlled by successive racking, like wine. The cider is bottled unpasteurised, which can be seen in the slight haze and small deposits found in the bottom of the beverage.

To finalise the production, the company starts the bottling process. “We do not have a bottling plant on site. Therefore, we hire one for the two to three days of bottling. This literally comes to us on the back of a lorry and we bottle around 10,000 at a time. Due to the process we follow, the cidre is bottled under pressure, directly from the fermentation tanks, and it does not require any artificial carbonation. If stored correctly, the cidre will improve with age, developing a more complex and interesting flavour. In total, from harvest to bottle, the process takes between four to six weeks, depending on the cidre variety,” Roberts explains.

Standing out : heritage and provenance

Speaking about the cider market in the UK, Roberts said: “We believe we are the first French Cidre in significant distribution in the UK grocery market. We believe that our methodology is also unique in the UK market. The consumer is becoming more interested in what, and how food is made (you only need to see the increasing amount of TV programmes focusing on it now). As such, we believe that a cidre made from 100% apples will resonate with them, particularly when you add to that the heritage and provenance that our French cideries provide.”

He continues: “For balance we’d like to state that there are some amazing UK cider makers out there, making cider from 100% apples – Olivers and Sheppys to name just two. However, there is a lot of cider in the UK made from apple concentrate, and current UK labelling laws do not require manufacturers to make this clear. In order to turn the concentrate back into something vaguely drinkable, you need to add sugar (lots of it), flavourings and colourings to it. We are confident that that the UK consumer will love the fact that our cidre contains no added sugar, flavourings or colourings and has the added benefit of being gluten-free. But it’s like anything else in life. If you want something of a high quality, well made, using only 100% natural ingredients, it’s probably going to cost you a little bit more.”