When the idea for this series popped into my head, my foremost hope was that we would be able to make it truly international, and specifically that we would be able to pick the brains of a maker from France’s Domfront region, unquestionably home to some of the greatest perries in the world.
So I’m delighted that our second spotlight is on the brilliant Jérôme Forget, one of Domfront’s leading lights, greatest innovators and central to the achievement of its AOP at the turn of the millennium. (One of my favourite perry stories, recorded in more detail here.)
I’ve only reviewed one of Jérôme’s perries — or, as I should say, poirés — in these digital annals before, but suffice it to say that if I could get my hands on them in the UK, there are few, if any, perrymakers I’d be buying from as frequently.
So, without further ado, let’s meet him.
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Jérôme: Jérôme Forget. EARL du Pré Verger. Otherwise known as Ferme de L’Yonnière.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Jérôme: I’m a dairy farmer. When I arrived at Ferme de L’Yonnière in 1995 and I discovered the orchards, I felt it was a privilege to have them. Some of the trees are up to 300 years old. My cows graze in these orchards and provide a form of natural maintenance in that they trim the branches and fertilise the soil. There’s no need for any intervention on my behalf.
It seemed logical that I wouldn’t let the cider apples and perry pears from these orchards go to waste.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape, terroir and perry culture.
Jérôme: I’m in Torchamp, 4 km from Domfront which lends its name to the AOP. This small zone is famous historically for having a lot of pear trees. Pear trees have a taproot and like deep loam clay soils. Cider and Poiré have always been traditional beverages in this part of the world.
CR: Tell us about some of the pear varieties you work with. How they are to grow and work with and the different flavours they bring? Tell us about any of your favourites.
Jérôme: There are approximately 30 different endemic varieties of pear in the orchards of the farm.
- Plant de Blanc is the most well known. Minimum 40% required for AOP Domfront production. The pears are small and round and grow in clusters.
- Petit Blot and Gaubert are early varieties. They’re sharp and acidic.
- De Fer and Fossey are both late varieties. De Fer are small and greyish-green when they fall. My fruit picking team nicknamed them « de l’enfer » as they’re hellish to pick and the weather is generally not that great when they fall in late November. Fossey is my favorite variety. Easy to pick. Easily conserved. Properly pear-shaped and pretty to look at.
- Other varieties include Rouge vigné, Vinot and Pomera. It’s interesting to note that the names of some varieties evoke the vine. I find that, when making poiré, pears are closer to grapes in behaviour than to apples.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Jérôme:Handpicked pressed fruit. Nothing added. Indigenous yeast fermentation. Second in-bottle fermentation. As little filtering as possible. Mainly racking. No added S02 to most cuvées.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Jérôme: Climate change. Late springtime freezing, then heatwaves and drought. Maintaining healthy hedgerows around small orchards to keep them protected from the heat and the wind.
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Jérôme: I like to experiment with different varieties and make different associations. One recent cuvée is an association of pear and gamay grape. Another is a cofermentation of apple and pear.
So many possibilities for style and taste.
Planting new trees. I have a friend who prepares the grafts in his nursery. We work together and plant local varieties. Over 700 planted trees to date.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Jérôme: Administration and paperwork. I spend so much time filling in forms instead of being out in the orchards.
Seeing fine trees and hedgerows cut down by farmers to make bigger parcels for cereal growing. It depresses me.
CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?
Jérôme: Depends on the cuvée.
Vinot: apéritif with oysters.
Domfront with a nice mature Norman cheese like Camembert or Pont L’Eveque.
Champ du Poirier: apéritif or with dessert.
Fossey with something spicy.
Mussels are nice when cooked in poiré with (or without) a touch of cream.
CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?
Jérôme: That poiré is often closer to a sparkling wine than to a traditional cider. It’s light, refreshing and doesn’t have a high alcohol content.
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Jérôme: Like children, I don’t have a favourite, haha. Or else, it changes from one year to the next depending on how successfully a cuvée turns out.
Jacques Perritaz – Cidrerie du Vulcain – Swiss.
Pascal Potaire and Moses Gaddouche – wine and perry makers – Faverolles-sur-Cher.
It’s not too late to take part in our Perry Month Spotlight series! If you’re a perrymaker reading this, be it in the Three Counties, Domfront, Mostviertel … or anywhere else, we would love to learn about you too. Just drop us a message with your email, and Adam will get the interview out to you.