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DRINKUP ON TOUR: MAISON SASSY

A short train ride and a hop over the Atlantic ocean from Southend airport and you’re in Normandie, the land of Camembert, Calvados and lovely cidre… we were lucky enough to take a trip to the beautiful Chateaux Sassy and see what makes their range of cidres so extra special.

Founded by childhood friends and proud Normans, Xavier and Pierre-Emmanuel - who after spending time in the UK seeing what apple-licious creations us Brits had to offer, were a little disappointed. Granted we make a mean scrumpy and we’re definitely partial to some sweet and fruity concoctions that need to be served over ice, but the boys couldn’t find anything in the middle – like the cidres they had grown up drinking in Normandy. So the idea was born to create a French sparkling wine style cidre especially for the UK… and what better place than Xavier’s family home – Chateaux Sassy.

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The Chateaux itself dates back to the 18th century and is still inhabited by their family today. It’s survived being taken over by the Germans during the war, has its own chapel, the Queen has stayed here and it's blimmin gorgeous. Perched atop a hill and overlooking it's own perfectly tended French garden... you couldn’t pick a more beautuful spot to make cidre if you tried!

Surrounded by farmland as far as the eye can see, this picture-postcard location is a perfect example of Norman terrior, which is so important to Xavier and Pierre-Emmanuel and integral to their range of cidres. The orchards are dotted around the estate growing twenty two local Norman species of cider apples, including Chevalier Jane, Binet Blanc and Doux Normandie, as well as pears for their poiré, twenty of each going into one bottle. Unlike competitiors, they've opted for Pommier Autigue apple trees - which take a whopping eight years to grow, but the fruit produced is worth the wait.

They use a special strain of red Genever apple to produce their rosé to give it that gorgeous pink hue and taste, that trust us, rivals your favourite drop of pink vino. And because the colour comes completely from the apples there are no extra nasties added. 

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It's also really important to the guys that there's as little waste as possible, so the apple mulch is used as manure on local farms and the bottles are re-used whenever possible and most importantly, for the family's impressive supply of homemade calvados.
When it comes to harvesting the apples, everyone chips in and even the bees are doing their bit - who knew bees were so important to cidre making!?
Chateaux Sassy has their own specific type of bee, called the Black Backs, who Xavier compared to bison (go with this...) as they can be known to be vicious. They're kept in separate hives and are then slowly introduced to the orchards over time to help with pollination and make the cidre even more unique.

Once the apples have been harvested - usually in Autumn - they go into a wine press, the same as many vineyards across France use - so it's truly French through and through. The freshly squeezed apple juice is left for four days, so all the impurities float to the top before being clarified a few times and sent to stainless steel tanks to ferment for about a month and a half. The results come in the form of a classic apple cidre, a perry and a rosé, all lower-abv ranging from 2.5% to 5.2% and all made using only natural products.

This is a bottle to share at aperitivo hour in your garden or mixed up into a delicious spritz. Cidre is getting a seriously grown-up makeover in the form of Maison Sassy and at only roughly £6 a bottle, we certainly approve!