Cidre (French sparkling, fermented apple cider) is a wonderful drink that is not at all like its British (and most American) counterparts. Normandy Cidre is naturally fermented using yeasts that exist in nature on the peels of the apples. In a process very similar to that used for Champagne, the apple juice is fermented twice -- once in large wooden casks and once again in the bottle It is the second fermentation that makes it bubbly. What distinguishes Normandy Cidre is its characteristic bright, apple flavor. British cider tends to taste almost like beer or like beer with a slight apple flavor. Normandy cidre tastes like fresh sparkling apple juice right from the tree. The alcohol level tends to be low -- 3% to 5% depending on whether you prefer sweet (doux) or dry (brut).

The Normandy tourist office has assembled a "Route du Cidre" or Cider Trail in the area to the east of Caen.  It includes over a dozen local producers of both cider and Calvados, the apple-based counterpart to Cognac.  Some of the stops are at tiny, "mom and pop" establishments wile others are at larger producers.  

While many people consider Huet (Calvados Pierre Huet, Manoir la Brière des Fontaines, 5 avenue des Tilleuls, 14340 CAMBREMER) to be the highlight of the tour due to their quite well-developed tours of the process for making French cider, some may prefer Dupont (Calvados Dupont, Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, RD16,14430 VICTOT-PONTFOL).  Dupont is smaller and not as heavily touristed but their products are absolutely wonderful.  They make one cidre that they age in used Calvados barrels for six months.  It takes Normandy cidre to a whole new level.

You can find full details on the cider route at http://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk.

In addition to tasting lots of wonderful cider, the route takes you through some wonderful small towns in the Normandy countryside.  It is really worth the leisurely 1/2 day it takes to do the circuit.