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A festival of French fare: 21 ciders, perries and pommeaux

Welcome back, happy new year and all that jazz. Hope the resolutions aren’t wobbling yet (or have been joyously cast aside if doing so makes you happier) and that you’re ready for another year of apple and pear-scented garbling chez Cider Review.

For all the challenges lying ahead for the world of cider and perry, a peek at the ‘to do’ list for content on this website that has accumulated in the first few weeks of the year gives me fertile grounds for cautious optimism. Welsh perries, Irish mistelles, bits and pieces from Germany, early bottlings from a Cornish maker whose wares I’ve not tasted before. I’ve ideas knocking around for pieces on cider’s relationship to the pub, perry’s adaptability with food — even something on beer, God help us. Suffice to say, the month off has been tremendously restorative and I’m raring to go again. 

First off though: France. Particularly Normandy and specifically the Domfront appellation, from whence I have just returned from a four day jaunt featuring much gawping at pear trees, excessive guzzling of perry and pommeau and calvados and a righteous helping of chat about soil. Long-term readers will know I’ve spent the last three years being a little bit obsessed with this particular corner of Normandy, without really having the opportunity to taste much of its output. I’m very happy to report that the visit has only deepened my appreciation for the place, its producers and its perries, and you can expect a proper writeup whenever I get a few moments over the next few months.

First though, as a new year warmup of writing and reviewing muscles, a simple and unapologetic tasting note cavalcade, in the same vein as my previous barrage of Austrian perry notes, and for the same reason: to avoid them being snarled up in a more coherent article. Similarly to that cavalcade, the notes below don’t feature comments on appearance (most were pale to mid gold and sparkling) or on ‘how I served’, since I was tasting in a range of places and with a range of producers. Where relevant I’ve included some explanatory notes.

Are you ready? Then let’s begin.

Pacory Le Poiré Vif et Petillant – review 

(Made in Domfront, but not bearing the AOP, since it uses a significant quantity of Blanc de Mantilly Pears (higher in acid) alongside the appellation’s key variety, Plant de Blanc)

On the nose: Hugely pear-forward. Crystal clear with white flowers, gooseberry and soft lime fruit. Aromatic and very expressive, whilst high-toned and delicate. Chenin Blanc meets Sauvignon Blanc almost, but that’s slightly stretching things.

In the mouth: Extra bright sherbet lemon and lime acidity — certainly zingier than most Domfronts — softened by the tangerine fruit and soft grapefruit of Plant de Blanc, and a good dab of sweetness, which balances the acidity deliciously. Delicate of body by gorgeous and clear of flavour. Very fruity. A stellar aperitif poiré. 

Pacory Le Bézot Domfront AOP – review

(100% Plant de Blanc, from the earliest harvested (first 15 days) of that variety).

On the nose: An initial touch of reduction which blows off quickly in the glass to reveal pear skin and slatey minerality beside blossom and pear fruit. Has me in mind of some Three Counties perry noses actually — somewhere between Red Pear and Butt, perhaps. A little of that earthiness, petrichor but also riper pear combination. Rather beguiling.

In the mouth: Off-dry here but again with some of the earthy, hedgerow, slatey petrichor character I associate with Three Counties perries, particularly the likes of several Ross on Wye bottlings and the old Newton Court Black Mountain. Juicier pear fruit underneath but in a leaner, greener style than typical Domfront AOP. Balanced acid, gentle tannin and frothy mousse. A very interesting Domfront that shows Plant de Blanc’s versatility. Lovely stuff. Almost ENglish in inflection. (If you’ll forgive a horrendous generalisation…)

Pacory l’Ideal 2020 – review

(Domfront AOP, 100% Plant de Blanc, disgorged)

On the nose: Huge, clean, full aromas. Pronounced quince, tangerine and apricot with a lovely seam of gunflint. Ripe melon and a touch of brioche and almond plus a lovely flutter of tuck shop sweets. A gorgeous, aromatic advertisement for both variety and appellation. Everything I love about this place and style and pear is on complex show, despite relative youth.

In the mouth: Oh yes please. Rich, full, elegant and supremely fruity delivery. Rounded mouthfeel, with not too much acidity, but packed with all that ripe, vibrant, brightly-expressed quince and tropical fruit and big pineapple notes. Beautiful creamy mousse. Off dry, with a long, long finish. Absolutely one of Domfront’s benchmark bottlings vintage on vintage. Stunning stuff — a perry I’ve waited a couple of impatient years for a reunion with, and find on tip-top form.

Pacory Pommeau de Normandie – review

(Calvados Domfrontais — in this case about 70% pears, 30% apples — married with apple juice for three years in oak.)

On the nose: Smoky oak, dried apple, cinder toffee, sultanas and burned sugar. A lot of tarte tatin. Yet despite that decadence retains incredible lightness and elegance. Some honeyed tones perhaps revealing the pears in the calvados component, but my mileage for Calvados and Pommeau may not be significant enough to fully trust here.

In the mouth: Rich, round delivery with a good bit of unctuousness and sweetness, but with enough freshness and elegance to balance. Nothing heavy whatsoever. Deep, rich oak with a touch of tannin meets caramel apple, clove, sultana and manuka honey (sorry – a bit fanciful, perhaps!) A lovely intertwining of sweet and savoury, fruit and oak. Delicious, elegant, balanced. Pommeau. One of the very few you can buy in the UK — and you definitely should. 

Pacory Grim’ de Poire – review

(Calvados Domfrontais married with pear juice for three years in oak)

On the nose: Phwoar. More into honeys (almost mead-esque) and dried tropical fruit — apricot and mango slices — here, with frangipane and, would you believe it, tarte aux poires. Supremely elegant and aromatic. Gloriously fresh. Higher toned than the Pommeau but, to my nose, even more complex and certainly with more overt fruit character.

In the mouth: Drier, fuller delivery than the Pommeau (though still sweet), with ripe, fresh acidity and a touch of tannin and with a greater weight of fruit. Epically textural, and that gorgeous, sinewy, elegant yet weighty mouthfeel carries a huge raft of fruit with it. The mead-esque tones are still here, but those notes of dried fruit, fresh honey, frangipane, sweet fresh-baked pastry and heady perfumed flowers are the stars. Absolutely epic. Buy on sight.

Pacory Le Frima Poiré de Glace – review

(Ice perry — 100% Plant de Blanc cryo-concentrated with artificial cold (see our taxonomy for explanation))

On the nose: Super intense dried pear and pear juice tones alongside deep citrus, caramel and a twist of lovely, savoury umami — not quite soy but nodding in that direction. A huge whack of sultana. As is a common theme across this Pacory flight, incredibly fresh despite its intensity and depth.

In the mouth: Absolutely luscious. On the deep side for ice perry. Unctuously sweet but offset by crystal-clear bright acidity. Super-charged fresh pear fruit, golden syrup, pear compôte and mandarin. Again ‘darker’ in flavour than the two ice perries tasted on this site before: Once Upon a Tree and Distelberger. Less of the umami in the mouth though — possible that note on the nose was to do with the bottle being open already; note that I’m not sure how long that had been the case for. Exquisite focus and balance. So good.

Jérôme Forget Vinot 2021 – review

(Mainly Vinot — a more acidic pear — with a bit of Pomera and Plant de Blanc.)

On the nose: Delightful aromas of gooseberry, fizzy strawberry laces, raspberry, candied lemon, white flowers and fresh green pear. Aromatic, poised and elegant bouquet. 

In the mouth: Packed with lovely, zippy, lemon-n-lime Vinot acidity — somewhere between Thorn and Yellow Huffcap, to compare it to English perry levels. An almost Riesling-esque lime, green apple, white flower and ever-so-light kerosene aspect, with touches of riper honeydew melon. Stunning clarity and freshness. Drier than the Domfront average — just off-dry. Superb aperitif perry, still super youthful. Could drink buckets.

Jérôme Forget Poiré Domfront AOP 2021 – review

(Atypically low Plant de Blanc content — the minimum 40% required by the appellation — due to frost ripping through the Plant de Blanc trees that vintage. Supplemented by several other varieties)

On the nose: Very lovely, but certain different to the Domfront norm — the nose is less fulsome and overtly ‘ripe tropical fruity’ than a blend with a higher Plant de Blanc percentage. Instead this is all about poise and minerality, with a real energy of green apple, lime leaf and fresh pear. The Plant de Blanc does poke through as the perry opens up — touches of riper yellow apricot. Cracking definition and freshness, if leaner than Domfront’s usual noses.

In the mouth: More acidity than the average Domfront AOP, and true to Jérômes preferred style, a little drier too — though still off-dry. Lemon, tonic, Granny Smith apple and white melon show both the bottling’s youth and its lower Plant de Blanc percentage, whilst a few telltale orangey dabs of tangerine remind you of both the primary pear and the appellation. Once again the poise and clarity are impeccable. I think this will really open up in a couple of years. Lovely now, but perhaps without the immediate generosity of a more Plant de Blanc-heavy cuvée.

Jérôme Forget Poiré Domfront AOP 2016 – review

(100% Plant de Blanc)

On the nose: Glory be. A beautiful, deep golden colour in the glass reflects the huge, generous Plant de Blanc aromatics. The ripest apricots and tangerines, poached pears in syrup, Turkish delight, tropical flowers and even lychee. Just incredible, opulent aromatics, showing the development of six years’ maturity yet still packed with freshness. Perfect Plant de Blanc nose.

In the mouth: Follows through note for note with a massive, ripe, ultra-fruity and outrageously complex delivery. Gewurztraminer meets aged Riesling as tropical fruit and ripe orange citrus entwine with honeys, rose petals, lychee and Turkish delight, all skewered with deliciously fresh acidity that balances the dab of sweetness to perfection. Mousse compliments it all marvellously, just a light, creamy stream of fine bubbles which add to mouthfeel without ever once detracting from flavour. Quite probably the best Plant de Blanc I’ve ever had.

Domaine Antoine Marois Jurassique 2020 – review

(Single orchard Pays d’Auge cider made from five varieties)

On the nose: Ripe waxy yellow fruit and a touch of earthiness. Passion fruit, citrus skins. Very fresh and high-toned by French standards, whilst retaining weight and depth. A beguiling twist of dried herbs. Clean, complex. Fabulous aroma.

In the mouth: Delivery is even better. Flavour intensity is upped and the mousse is just a very light one which gives the flavours more room to strut their stuff. A touch of tannin, and only of-dry (like Jérôme, Antoine is one of several French producers tacking in a drier direction than the historic norm). Packed with pineapple, passion fruit, apricot skins and jellied lemon. That twists of herbs persists, offsetting the fruit and increasing complexity. Looking for an English equivalent I’d say ripe Harry Masters’ Jersey but with less astringent tannin. Wonderful freshness and energy. Stellar.

Domaine Antoine Marois Rosière 2021 – review

(Single orchard Pays d’Auge. ‘One of the best terroirs’ – a south-facing natural amphitheatre protected from the wind)

On the nose: Deeper, richer, spiced orange and bergamot notes. Toasty, almost clovey aromas. Juicy, yet with spice and herbal characteristics — an impeccably balanced and complex Normandy nose.

In the mouth: Full-bodied, more or less dry (3 g/l residual sugar) and absolutely rammed with bitter orange, bergamot, herbs, dried citrus and spice flavour. A lovely touch of lightly pithy tannin adds extra refreshment, cutting through the heft and depth. Outstanding already, but will reward at least two to three years of cellaring.

Domaine Antoine Marois Casus Belli 2020 – review

(Totally dry cider, ‘still’ – the tiniest, tiniest spritz of fizz)

On the nose: Toasty, waxy, almost buttery tones across yellow fruit skins, pith and dried herbs. Almost austere initially; as it warms, peach and apricot emerge, though it keeps that dry, poised, cerebral edge. Even more Harry Masters’ Jersey-esque than the Jurassique, and definitely still on the young and concentrated side. Give it time to breathe and it opens up beautifully.

In the mouth: Full, winey, very dry delivery augmented by a miniscule spritz of barely-perceptible fizz. Tannins are firm but not quite astringent and that intertwining of waxy yellow fruit, wet slate, herbs and pith is mesmerising, if rather tight and concentrated at this stage of its life. Give it time to open up and don’t serve it any cooler than cellar temperature at most — room temperature even better. A strong recommendation for future drinking, but already certain to be fabulous with protein-rich food.

Domaine Antoine Marois Renard 2020 – review

(Collaboration with winemaker VIncent Roussely — cider fermented on Pinot d’Aunice grape pomace)

On the nose: Oh that is delightful. Wonderful musky, peppery perfume wafting over the herby, dark orangey tones of the cider. Sandalwood, ginseng and a good whack of bergamot. Super aromatic — high toned yet balanced by weight and depth. An ethereal, shifting, endlessly compelling nose. Just gorgeous.

In the mouth: Again a lovely, full, all-but-dry, vinous delivery packed with ginseng, white pepper, fragrant woods, bergamot and even pine needles and juniper over a rich, textural mouthful of ripe orange fruit. A delicious tingle of light, pithy tannin on the finish keeps that incredible complexity going. I have underlined the word ‘sensational’ three times in my notebook. A co-ferment of dreams and rhapsodies.

Domaine Antoine Marois Chevrette 2021 – review

(Fully-fermented, bottle-conditioned cider aged in oak barrels from Tonnellerie Desfrieches which had been seasoned with apple juice before charring: ‘Chauffe Normande’)

On the nose: The hits just keep coming. Enormous, rich aromas of smoky, toasty, caramelised apple — almost ice cider-esque. Burnt orange, vanilla and deep toasted spices. Ultra-ripe fruit, moving towards tropical dried mango tones. Another major winner.

In the mouth: Big, big delivery. Super full-bodied with some nibbling, pithy tannin, a light spritz of fizz and then just a wave of spiced orange fruit, lightly bittered. Outrageously textural, with bright freshness augmenting the tones of toast, vanilla and dark caramel. Almost totally dry – 3 g/l residual again – and utterly clean and faultless. Delicious now, will certainly age for at least another five years. I’m getting a bit broken record here, but what an outstanding cider.

N.B. Antoine also gave us a taste of his pommeau. Yet to be released, so no note here, but just wanted to let it be known that it was probably my favourite pommeau to date. Buy it as soon as it comes out — apparently later this year.

Earl du Bois Poiré Domfront AOP (Bio*)

On the nose: Good, juicy, Plant de Blanc-forward nose – tangerine, honeydew melon and ripe pear all present and correct. A little icing sugar too. Whistle clean, very fresh and enticing — honestly can you go wrong with Domfront AOP?

In the mouth: Pretty much a classic of its type. Medium sweetness, nice clean nibble of fresh acidity — just a touch, no real tannin, frothy mousse that doesn’t intrude on the ripe, juicy fruit flavours. Clean, bright, fruity. Light stone fruit, melon, sweet clementine — check, check, check. Domfront by numbers really, and just so endlessly moreish with it. I’d prefer this stuff to the likes of Asti or Prosecco any day, thinking of its potential vinous equivalents. (Your mileage may vary of course!)

Manoir du Val Poiré Bio – review

(Carbonated perry from Pays de la Risle)

On the nose: Very light, floral nose. Almost dessert-pear esque at times. Soft pear, blossom, green apple and very light orange skin. A little peardrop. Hawthorne. Attractive and delicate, if rather low in aromatic intensity compared to the average Domfront.

In the mouth: Bright, sweet, with nibbly lemon-n-lime acidity and a gentle wrap of tannin around fresh flowers and pear. Quite mouthfilling mousse. Simple, but fresh, tasty, sweet and very easy-drinking. Spring flavours for cold summer glassfuls.

Domaine des Hauts Vents Poiré de Normandie – review

(Carbonated perry – regular practice for cideries east of Pays d’Auge, made from classic Domfront pear varieties including Plant de Blanc, Fossey etc)

On the nose: Deeper, musky, almost grapey nose. Another that’s rather floral, and very fresh. Some white grapefruit. Still not as aromatic as a Domfront, but lots of clean green fruit and a little beeswax. Very nice, if not hugely complex. (Not everything has to be!)

In the mouth: Nice texture; full-ish body, complimentary mousse, citrusy acidity and lightly grippy tannins — actually a fair bit by French poiré standards, though nowhere near the likes of Butt or Flakey Bark. Talking of Butt, there are some similarities of flavour tone; sweet lime, beeswax, white flowers, even a flutter of that Butt Pear speciality, natural gas. Medium in its sweetness, bright and very clean and vibrant. Not the most complex, but wearing its youth exuberantly and proudly, with cracking tastes and textures.

Cave de la Loterie Poiré Bio – review

(The lesser-spotted French 330ml bottle, but méthode ancestrale, not force-carbonated)

On the nose: More aromatic intensity than the last two, but slightly unusual. Some flowers and fresh pear but there’s a slight antiseptic tone of a sort of green citrus disinfectant. A little waxy lemon. Very floral – almost a touch soapy – with a bit of tropical fruit too. It’s a very expressive nose, though I’m not sure it’s quite my favourite — likely just a matter of preference, as it’s certainly perfectly clean.

In the mouth: More balanced (to my taste) here – full of soft young pear fruit. A big mixed bouquet of flowers, but the florality is dialled back a bit from the nose – there’s certainly no suggestion of any soapiness here. A little exotic green fruit, just-ripe pineapple. Soft acidity with a nice rounded body and no real tannins. Another easy-drinker.

Ferme du Theil Signatures Poiré 2020 – review

(Disgorged traditional method perry from Mayenne, primarily the Champagne Pear variety)

On the nose: Evident lees influence in toast and dough and a little yeast. A touch of reduction initially — another to give a few moments to breathe in the glass. As it opens up some fascinating savoury tones of sultana, beeswax and even balsamic begin to emerge (though before someone checks, the balsamic tone doesn’t express as volatile). Very interesting and certainly complex; not an especially ‘fruity’ perry … but then champagne isn’t an especially ‘fruity’ wine…

In the mouth: Drier full body with a lovely creamy mousse. Fruit pokes its nose out a little more here; some plump tangerine and nectarine. But those savoury, bready, waxy, balsamic notes are still just as prominent. This is an absolutely fascinating perry. Likely a crowd-splitter; I’m not entirely sure where I sit with it myself, but absolutely one to try. A showcase of the fermented pear’s diversity and of the increasing breadth of flavour and style available in France.

Domaine des 5 Autels Poiré Normand Cuvée Abel 2020 Extra Brut – review


On the nose: Very upfront fruity. Lime chewits, rose petals, tinned pears and a little peardrop. A touch of almond from the lees. There is a touch of volatile acidity in here too, it has to be said. Not enough to overbalance the other fruit flavours by any means, but enough to slightly smudge the otherwise clean lines and expressiveness of some of their characteristics. (Just my mileage, as ever — I know some love this effect.)

In the mouth: Being completely honest the volatility does seem to show a little more here, though objectively speaking the character of the fruit is just as big. Limes, pineapples – lots of good things going on. I’m not a fan of this sort of volatility personally, as longer-term readers will know, but I can certainly take a step back and say that it doesn’t overwhelm the fruit. Many will love it — it’s just not so much for me.

La Ferme de Billy Poiré 2020 – review

(Yet to be released, but a full note submitted here nonetheless, since I had opportunity to write one).

On the nose: Evinces some of those bready, savoury, leesy tones (I wonder whether these manifest more in pears from outside Domfront, being less aromatic varieties – would tally with champagne grapes working well for the same reason?) But in this case there’s more weight of balancing pear and melon fruit alongside them. Biscuits and brioche. Baking spice. A very nice development already. Complex and engrossing nose. 

In the mouth: Yum. Creamy, mouthfilling palate. Another that sits on the drier side — an emerging trend in France, perhaps… — and showing a beguiling dovetail of fleshy pear fruit and toasty, smoky brioche tones. Soft of acidity. Complex and extremely tasty stuff.


As tasting flights to kick the year off go, I’m not sure I can do much better than that.

The nice thing about these larger-scale tastings is they always offer a broader scope for pulling at general category threads, and whilst I don’t want to cover too much here that I’ll be going over in imminent future articles, let’s have a quick look at a few of them.

Firstly, Domfront perry has a revered place for a reason. It has fantastic varieties, a huge number of amazing old trees and a long long history of making perry, which it does as well as anywhere in the world. Pacory and Jérôme Forget are, it should be admitted, almost invariably the first two names mentioned when I ask French friends about perry, so I’ve tasted the real cream of the crop here, but even across tastings from other producers, it’s pretty clear that the great perries of Domfront are the top of the French tree — in much the same way that the best perries of the Three Counties are England’s elite.

That being said, there’s obviously a fascinating breadth of flavour and style to be found around France. We’ve commented before here that the country’s cider output is more diverse and dynamic than is often suggested, and that clearly holds true for perry too. I’m hugely grateful to Yann Gilles for giving me the opportunity to taste a range of perries from around Normandy. Exciting things seem to be happening.

One very eye-catching trend is a pattern of many exciting producers starting to move in a drier direction than has historically been the French norm. I saw this with Jérôme Forget’s output, and even more so with Antoine’s, who remarked that Jérôme had possibly inspired this shift. Yann suggested to me that it’s a trend which is likely to continue, and it’s one I’m very excited by. Don’t get me wrong – off-dry or sweeter is still certainly the norm, but an increased range of sweetnesses and the resultant flavours available can only be another arrow in the formidable French quiver.

Finally (for now) whilst I mainly visited producers recommended to me as the best of the best, I was able to taste far more widely across my visit (these notes certainly don’t account for everything) and what continues to be apparent is that France almost certainly sets world’s standard for average quality — for perry as much as it does for cider. Whilst there are undoubtably producers in the UK, Austria, Germany, USA and other places besides who offer the same level as France’s very best, I can’t think of another country in which you can pick up any bottle without prior knowledge of its contents and be as certain of finding something excellent. It was a privilege to start my year with a deep dive into these very special bottlings — if my tastings throughout 2023 are anything like as eye-opening I shall be a lucky boy indeed.

Many thanks to the team at Pacory, Jérôme and Janice, Antoine and Yann for making this tasting possible.

*’Organic’ in English 

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Six random ciders and perries that I thought might be fun | Cider Review

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