Most alcohol free beverages are designed to be a simple, inexpensive refreshment. They begin and end as a thirst quencher, or a liquid sugar fix. There is no thought given to complementing a good meal. As a result, those who value great food but don’t drink alcohol are left to only imagine the ways in which cider and wine can enhance flavor and expand the palate while dining.
One of our key objectives at Delmosa is to try and change perceptions of what a non-alcoholic beverage can be. Our current group of artisans has shown that with skill, ingenuity, and superior ingredients, alcohol free beverages can be full of depth and sophistication, elevating both casual and fine dining. We call it The Beauty of Earth and Artistry. And we are always on the look out for more.
Brittany and Normandy, in northwest France, are two of the top cider producing regions of the world. The fertile soil, rich in minerals, and cool maritime climate combine to create ideal growing conditions for the exceptional orchard fruit necessary to produce finely structured, complex ciders.
In May I traveled through Brittany and Normandy looking for non-alcoholic versions of cider that share the elegance and cultivated attributes of their alcoholic counterparts. While I tasted several delicious juices, none of them offered the refinement and character of a crafted beverage, which should not have come as a surprise. I knew that in France there is no such thing as a non-alcoholic cider. The term cider is reserved only for a fermented beverage made of specialized varieties of apples or pears. Juice is merely juice –sweet and straightforward. In the mind of a French cider maker there is no overlap between the two.
But what if there were?
Several years ago I approached a renowned Normandy cider maker – whom I will call Jacques — about creating a non-alcoholic product. He was indignant, declaring that he does not make kids drinks. “Would you ask Chateau Petrus to make you a grape juice? No!”, he blustered. Despite my attempts to reassure Jacques that what I wanted was something worthy of his name and reputation, it was clear the chasm between our worlds would not be easily bridged. Then came an opening. He stated that even though we wouldn’t be partners in my new venture, I was welcome to come by for a visit if I was ever in Normandy. As a former journalist, trained to ignore initial objections, I seized the opportunity.
A few months later I found myself wandering Jacques’ beautiful orchards, listening to him describe the unique local terroir and its impact on his fruit. We then toured his production facilities and discussed his philosophy and methods. By the time we reached his office my respect and admiration for Jacques had grown considerably. I was determined to work with him.
Now that we knew each other a little better, Jacques allowed me to further explain the vision for my company, and how he could extend his own brand into the non-alcoholic realm without sacrificing his prestige. It was a little presumptuous on my part — counseling a world class cider maker on the merits of crafting an alcohol free drink — but surprisingly, Jacques began to muse about what he could produce.
I didn’t leave with a deal. In fact, I have been back twice since that time trying to convince Jacques to be a part of Delmosa. This last visit in May I came armed with a new website and functioning business, which includes some producers that Jacques knows and respects. And I am happy to report that he has agreed to start experimenting on a new product for Delmosa this next harvest. There are no guarantees of success, but it is an important start. Stay tuned.