In Melbourne, a city full of food and obsessed by coffee, I cook, I eat, I share the good news and the bad. essjay eats

Libertine Cider Battle – Victoria vs Normandy


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Autumn had just started to bite here in Melbourne, and it seemed like the perfect time to settle in and learn a lot more about cider, and eat some delicious food at Libertine in North Melbourne.

Our hosts, Zoe and Nick, packed their restaurant with cider makers, cider lovers and food-folk; offered us 12 ciders over four courses with plenty of cider making and tasting chat.

What’s not to love?

We would be tasting ciders from Henry of Harcourt, Napoleon & Co (Punt Road Wines), and those imported by Gabriel and Valerie from Cerbaco.

We started with a glass of Henry of Harcourt Original Cider – served as an aperitif like a champagne. This is made from Pink lady eating apples, a practice that is quite common in Australia, but very unlikely in France or the UK where cider apples are grown especially for cider and brandy making. I found the Cider to be very dry, short and quite acidic.

Then we settled in for:
Course one

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Fromage du Tete, crackling and radish salad

Served with:-

Henry of Harcourt Perry – made from eating pears – tasted thin and very acidic.

Napoleon & Co Pear Cider – Sweet and inoffensive

Le Père Jules Poire Pay D’Auge – Complex, full and aromatic. Also organic.


Course two

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Seared trotter (with truffles), gribiche & beans

Served with:-

Henry of Harcourt 2010 Yarlington Mill – this is made from a single variety of cider apple.  I found it terribly dry, tannic, bitter and pretty much undrinkable.

Napoleon & Co Apple Cider – Apple blossom fragrance and pleasant drinking.

Cidre d’Anneville Cidre Traditionnel, Pays de Caux – a typical pasteurised cider – sweet smelling, but a dry finish little bit tannic behind your front teeth…


Course three

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Confit pork belly, bourdin noir and Calvados Jus

Served with:-

Henry of Harcourt Duck & Bull draft cider – this had a distinct smell of pineapple lollies and was quite astringent.

Henry of Harcourt Kingston Black ’10 – another single apple cider and again I found it bitter.  The apple variety hails from Sommerset, and it was hoppy and almost “beer-like”.

Cidre de Cornouailles Manoir du Kinkiz, Brittany – AOC cider, slightly sweeter than the previous two, orange in colour and effervescent.  Had aroma notes of .. wait for it … manure, urine and asphalt.


Course four


Served with:-

Henry of Harcourt Last Apple 2008 – made from some Pink Lady apples that they forgot to harvest.

Cider Doux Binet Rouge, Pays de Caux – made from a single apple variety – the Binet Rouge.

Overall on the evening the attendees voted Napolean & Co Apple Cider their favourite, followed by a tie for second between Henry of Harcourt Kingston Black and Cider Doux Binet Rouge, with Cidre Cournouailles coming 4th.

I didn’t agree with them 🙂  I put all the French ones before the local ones.

I learnt that Cider in Brittany is made with indigenous yeast, can be pasteurised or unpastrieurised, and comes from hundreds of years of tradition, often from small producers who think that no-one else will like their cider as it’s “rustic”.

Our local “artisinal” ciders are made with champagne yeast and most often table apples.  Only very special makers have access to cider apples, Henry of Harcourt being one, and Bress Wine and Cider being the other that I know of.  There may well be more.

Cider apples are juicy, and very tannic and astringent.

Making Perry is a difficult proposition as the natural process produces naturally occurring sorbitol, also used as a sugar substitute.

Industrial ciders are made from apple concentrate and spring water and are nasty!

I also learned that 13 tasting glasses makes you a wee bit squiffy!

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Libertine on Urbanspoon


8 thoughts on “Libertine Cider Battle – Victoria vs Normandy

  • Fruit varieties, terroir.

    We’ve learned to stop calling Pinot Noir, Burgundy..

    Comment from: Ryan

  • Hi Ryan, thanks for stopping by. The debate about Perry and Pear Cider will probably go on forever, but the cider makers that I know tell me that it’s Perry; always; if it’s made from pears. What do you the differences between pear cider and perry are?

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • It’s probably worth pointing out that pear ‘cider’ and perry are different things.

    Try the French ones – Manoir du Kinkiz in particular with some Victorian cheeses; the best matches for ‘funky’ cider – Holy Goat, Jindi triple cream brie, Milawa shadows of blue.

    Comment from: Ryan

  • Hi there, Glad you found it! I took me a while to write up, but Le Tour was inspiring. Thanks for dropping by.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • Only just saw this! Thanks for the mention, it was a great night!

    Comment from: Napoeleone & Co

  • […] Battels taste off between some local and imported Ciders at Libertine Restaurant and wrote it up on my food blog. Share this: July 7th, 2011 | Tags: cheese, Normande, Normandy, Stage 6 | Category: Le Tour De […]

    Pingback from: Stage 6 and the Tour de France crosses in to Normandy. | Les Vaches du Tour

  • Hi Billy,

    I really like Normandy-style Ciders with food – usually stuff like terrine and charcuterie, and of course galette. The Napoleon and Co cider was definitely an aperitf style, by which I mean drink poured over ice in a pint glass in a beer garden (i.e. they won because of the number of people in the room who frequent beer gardens…)

    The purists will tell you that you can only make Cider with apples, and Perry with pears, but I think the pear people are hanging on to the cider coattails for dear life. Same thing, but you really shouldn’t call it pear cider.

    Comment from: essjayeats

  • Having only tried a couple of Normandy ciders, I think I would have to concur with you. The flavour tends to be so much more complex – and interesting – as long as you can get past that slightly musty odour?

    I’m not so sure that Normandy ciders necessarily pair well with food, though. Maybe that was their downfall on the night.

    And colour me ignunt, but is there a difference between perry and pear cider, or are they just alternative names for the same thing?

    Comment from: Billy

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