Le Pommeau: History and Techniques of Pommeau de Normandie and Bretagne
To celebrate the release of our 2 Towns Ciderhouse 2015 Pommeau (which we are ecstatic about!), we are taking a look at the techniques and origins of Pommeau in France and how they compare to our methods here at 2 Towns.
What is Pommeau?
Pommeau is a mix of fresh-pressed apple juice and apple brandy. By blending the apple brandy into the juice, the alcohol content is brought to around 16-18% abv, which kills any yeast and prevents fermentation from occurring. This means that all those nice sugars naturally present in the fresh apple juice stick around, and the bottles will be shelf-stable forever. These are the same methods that are employed to make Port wine. So basically, Pommeau is an apple-port.
How is Pommeau made in France?
Traditionally in the regions of Normandy and Brittany in Northwestern France, most apple farmers produce hard cider, Calvados (apple-brandy), and Pommeau (along with lots and lots of cows). To make the Calvados, some of the hard cider is distilled and aged for a minimum of 2 years at 65% alcohol. This apple-brandy is then blended with fresh-pressed apple juice to make the 16-18% abv Pommeau. The Pommeau is then aged 2 years in 400 liter neutral oak casks before bottling for consumption.
How is Pommeau made at 2 Towns?
We have our own methods that we developed here at 2 Towns that make our Pommeau unique from those of Normandy and other producers here in the USA. We start with a fresh-pressed blend of sweet dessert apples, traditional French bittersweet varieties, and a few high-acid heirloom varieties. This gives our Pommeau a more thick and full bodied mouth-feel and a little more acid balance than most of the Pommeau you will find on shelves. Just as fermentation is starting we blend in a custom distilled high-proof apple ‘eau de vie’. This is an un-aged apple brandy we have our friends down the road at Vivacity Spirits distill for us out of our very own hard cider. We blend the Pommeau to hit 19% abv and lay down the Pommeau for a minimum of 1 year in a variety of 225 liter oak barrels. These barrels include local Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, Washington State Chardonnay barrels, as well as brandy, muscat, and Sauterne barrels. These barrels all lend their own unique characters, and the final blend is symphony of flavors bursting out of the glass.
What does Pommeau taste like?
Most of the Pommeau from France has a distinct baked apple, and almost butterscotch/brown sugar character. It is quite sweet and is complemented by notes of over-ripe apples and fruit leather. Because the Pommeau made at 2 Towns uses a high-proof eau de vie instead of a brandy, and a wide variety of apples, the flavors tend to be brighter and more intense. The 2015 Pommeau has an exceptional nose of dried apricots, orange blossoms, honey and late season heirloom apples. There is a spirituous, almost candy-like aroma reminiscent of Québécois ice-wines. The acidity is wonderfully balanced with a thick, sweet, and velvety mouth-feel, while the finish is warm and inviting.
How do I serve Pommeau and what should I pair it with?
Pommeau is traditionally served in a small tulip glass and slightly chilled. Traditionally it has been served as a before dinner aperitif to stimulate the appetite. One classic pairing in Normandy is Pommeau and foie gras, but any rich pâte will do. A favorite of French chefs, Pommeau also works wonders as an addition to heavy creams and sauces. Pommeau is also traditionally served with apple desserts, ripe summer melons, or mousse. Currently, with the revival of the cocktail scene in America, Pommeau is becoming a favorite tool of confection in the arsenal of bartenders at many high-end speakeasies and saloons throughout the nation.
If you have a cigar aficionado in the family, one of our favorite pairings at 2 Towns is Pommeau and a mild cigar of superior quality. -What’s that you say? Grandma doesn’t allow cigars in the house?
-Some nice hot and gooey gingerbread with vanilla ice cream is a great alternative. Enjoy.