JULIEN FREMONT CIDER
NORMANDY CIDER PAR EXCELLENCE
It was February, we were in Saumur (Loire) and we were miserable. The river had flooded, the streets were empty, it was cold and wet and we were fairly sick (tough life of a wine importer). Worse, we had been tasting for days (hundreds of wines) and were striking out terribly. Early on the fourth morning, spirits gloomy we decided we needed a change of scenery but as we were flying to Puglia in Italy the following day our options were limited. Normandy however, was only two hours away.
Julien Fremont had been on our radar for some time (as the best, artisanal, natural producer of dry cider in Normandy) but we had never been able to get him to respond to our emails or phone calls. So we plugged what we hoped was the correct address into our GPS, checked out of our hotel and hit the road. It began to snow.
The Fremont farm was started in 1749 and was and still is dedicated to growing apples and raising cattle. Julien Fremont, the current and fourth-generation steward of the farm has been in full control for almost 20 years – and he’s shaken things up a bit…
Julien has kept his cattle as he knows they are crucial for the health of his orchards – moving the lawns, turning the soil and fertilizing.
The ciders of the Pays D’Auge AOC where Julien has his farm must be, by law, relatively sweet. But Julien doesn’t make sweet cider – preferring to let his fermentation finish almost completely before bottle conditioning. He also works naturally, a rarity in cider production: thus his ciders are not AOC. What they are however is:
- old massal selection trees – dozens of ancient traditional varietals
- hand harvesting (on ladders)
- natural fermentation
- no enzyme etc
- no sulphur
- fermentation in 100+-year-old 2000L barrels (4 of them)
- bottle conditioned
- 250-year-old basket press
- no fining no filtration
It was actually a vintage working for Jean Foillard (the famed naturalist Beaujolais producer – Racine Wine imports here in BC) that made Julien change from making the sweet AOC ciders of his father and grandfather to making dry cider with minimal intervention and no inputs. He saw firsthand the possibility of working this way and that as with conventional winemaking problems do arise during production but by working naturally the problems were much better and often easier to handle. Not to mention they tasted amazing, even alive and Julien feels more truthful working this way. With Foillard’s help, Julien began to sell in many of the best restaurants in Paris including Tonneaux des Halles, Le Baratin, and Caves Augé…and is now found in all of the top spots.
The orchard at the Fremont farm is treated like a beautiful vineyard with the different ciders coming not from different varietals but from different terroirs. The Silex cider is from the flinty soils part of the orchard and the Brut Nature is on calcaire (limestone). It is a fascination to have these side by side knowing they are only grown within a few hundred feet from each other and made in an almost identical way.
We are very pleased to be able to represent Julien and his ciders and Calvados here in BC and are very happy he decided to open his door when we arrived at his farm unannounced that snowy, miserable day back in February. The first sips we had of these ciders put smiles on our faces, not even the Sacra Corona Unita (Puglian mafia) could wipe off…