Wine regions are a bundle of prestige and hard work. Underneath all these fascinating layers is a long history that often spans centuries. At least, for most wine regions.
Normandy, France is a rather unique location in the world of wine. Unlike famed regions such as Bordeaux and Rhone Valley, this location literally only has one vineyard.
Yes, you read that right! In fact, Normandy is not an official wine region at all, but is instead famed for its cider, calvados, and poiré (a fermented drink created from pears).
The single vineyard in this area is classically French through and through, boasting well-known grape varietals you’ve likely seen while browsing your local grocer’s wine rack.
Let’s take a look at this underrated locale and see what it has to offer in exploring the best wines of Normandy.
The Region of Normandy
While Normandy doesn’t have quite the lengthy history that official French wine regions have, it’s still a fascinating cultural region with its roots in English settlement and Viking exploration.
Did you know Normandy has several cave paintings to its name? How about the fact it once was a former province of the Roman Empire?
Over the centuries this region has evolved right alongside legendary hallmarks of human history, right up to the cider-producing location many enjoy today.
Normandy is currently divided into several key locations:
This department of France has the distinction of being created during the legendary French Revolution. Located right alongside the English Channel, Manche was nearly destroyed during World War II.
Despite so much conflict, this beautiful coastal collective is now well-known for its temperate weather and ideal growing conditions.
This department of Normandy is named after its neighboring river. Orne is well-known for its classic, rolling green pastures, and rural villages.
Similar to Orne, Eure is named after its nearby river. Over the decades this French Department has evolved into a popular tourist destination thanks to its carefully preserved abbeys.
Calvados is another go-to tourist destination, its name simultaneously a shout-out to its proximity to England and brandy produced in the region.
Calvados is a sweet and rich brandy usually made with a combination of apples and pears.
You can already guess where this region is located based on the name. Next to the iconic River Seine, this French department is visited frequently for its carefully preserved historical towns.
What is Normandy Cider?
It’s impossible to talk about Normandy, France without discussing their passion for ciders. Known as Cidre de Normandie, these ciders boast a long and passionate history behind them.
You’ll be able to spot a Normandy cider a mile away thanks to its rich amber or golden color, as well as its foamy head.
Depending on the brand and the apples they use, you may enjoy a drier mouthfeel or a juicy sweetness. Under local regulations, French cider ranges from a 3% alcohol count to a 5.5% alcohol count.
What is Perry?
On a similar note, Normandy also creates alcoholic drinks from pears. Perry (known as Poiré in French) is a fermented drink popular for casual drinking and special occasions like.
Perry uses a similar fermentation process for cider, though pears contain a different blend of sugars and a thicker skin.
While apple cider is often tart and crisp, perry is praised for its soft mouthfeel and sweeter flavor. Be sure not to confuse perry with pear cider, the latter of which is a mixture of apples and pears.
Grape Varietals Commonly Used in Normandy
Many of the grape varieties used in Normandy are popular throughout France. This country easily grows some of the most delectable and high-quality wines thanks to its climate.
Often cool and temperate, French climates are compatible with sensitive wine grapes such as Pinot Noir.
What better way to start off French wine regions than with the iconic grape varietal itself? Pinot Noir is a staple and one you can expect to enjoy when purchasing Normandy wines.
If you’re more of a fan of white wine, you’ll love Normandy Chardonnay. While this grape varietal first originated in the Burgundy region of France, it’s now a staple white wine you can find in several regions.
This relatively rare grape variety is a mutation of the more well-known Sauvignon Blanc. While this grape had a hard time catching on due to its extremely low yields, it has since caught on as a dignified single-origin in its own right.
Likewise, Sauvignon Gris is commonly blended with other white grape varieties like Chardonnay and its parent Sauvignon Blanc.
Also known as Auxerrois or Auxerrois Blanc, this grape variety is also rather rare…at least, on paper. While not often found as a single origin, Auxerrois is beloved as a blending grape or a sparkling wine variety.
While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originate from France, this grape variety has its roots in Germany. This grape was created by breeding the sweet Riesling grape with the fruity Madeleine Royale.
Best Wines of Normandy, France
Since Normandy isn’t an official wine region and only has one vineyard to its name, this list will be a short-yet-sweet look at its sole winery: Arpents du Soleil.
This vineyard has been in place since the 18th century, though has only started to gain attention in the early 1990s. The lead winemaker, Gérard Samson, has overseen this region in an attempt to bring out the terroir’s potential for high-quality grapes.
Below are a few Normandy wines for you to try.
Arpents du Soleil Pinot Gris 2007
When you want a complex wine that continues to evolve with each new sip, look no further than this flavorful Pinot Gris. A quick refresher: Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grapes, but grown in different countries!
While the Italian Pinot Grigio is often zestier and lighter, the French Pinot Gris tends to be sweeter. Arpents du Soleil’s Pinot Gris 2007 is a classic example of why Pinot Gris is so beloved.
With over a decade of age to its name, this bottle boasts a powerful bouquet of bergamot and pear with flavors of lively citrus and white pepper.
Arpents du Soleil Pinot Noir 2005
This Pinot Noir offers a blend of both worlds, boasting two decades to its vintage date alongside partial oak aging.
A smoky aroma gives way to rich red fruits and baking spices not easily found in younger Pinot Noir bottles. The winery recommends you pair this wine with beef or duck, which already sounds like a mouthwatering combination.
Arpents du Soleil Auxerrois 2004
If you want to explore wine beyond its classic fruit notes, this Auxerrois offering is ready to meet you halfway. With a honeyed flavor and mineralized aroma, you’ll be stunned at the depth white wine can offer.
The best pairings with this bottle are fish or duck-based dishes to allow the more delicate flavor notes to stand out.
Arpents du Soleil Connivence 2007
When’s the last time you had a truly stunning white wine blend? This bone-dry bottle is crafted with a mixture of Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Melon de Bourgogne, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Unlike more tart and zesty white wines, this bottle boasts a rare nutty flavor. Consider cheese and crackers or a chicken pasta dish.
Where Will Normandy, France Go From Here?
All regions start with humble beginnings. Bordeaux witnessed the rise and fall of empires before it became known as the wine capital of the world. For all we know, Normandy could end up becoming a sleeper hit in the wine world.
To recap: Normandy, France isn’t a wine region, but rather, a cider-focused French department that’s started to dip into wine production.
Some of the best drinks from this location are their crisp, fresh ciders, calvados, and poiré. Their sole vineyard is overseen by the winery Arpents du Soleil.
If you’re curious to learn more about wine regions, check out our wine series exploring the roots of Bordeaux and Merlot.