It's rare for us to find non-U.S. ciders here in Pennsylvania. We've scoured distributors, bottle shops, and state-run wine/spirits shops (online and in person) and up until last week have found...one. Pennsylvania is not a friendly place for people who want to learn about the wide world of cider. So when we were checking out the coolers at Carson Street Deli--a most excellent sandwich shop and craft beverage friendly bar in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood that was awesomely hosting a mini Pennsylvania cider fest recently--and found a French cider, we were jazzed.
Aval Cidre Artisanal hails from Brittany (or Bretagne, as noted on the bottle), a peninsula in the northwestern-most part of France that looks like a little tongue sticking out at the UK. It's one of the foremost cider-making regions in France and stays pretty true to style for the few French ciders we've tasted.
On the nose, Aval hits you with apples. Think of the cider you buy from a farm stand in the fall, rich and ripe. Behind that there are notes of vanilla, caramelized sugar, and just a whiff of forest funk. Earth and leaves.
That unashamed apple carries through on the palate, semi-sweet to start, bitter in the middle, finishing just a bit tannic and dry. Ample carbonation and residual sugar give Aval a nice mouthfeel.
If you haven't experienced funk, this is a good place to start as the funk plays out mostly upfront on the nose. It isn't offensive or challenging. Let's call it gateway funk.
Overall, Aval is a pretty straightforward cider, sweet apples and sugar mostly, with just enough dryness and funk to make it worth spending a few minutes discussing with friends (but not so much that you want to be left alone to contemplate life and tannins).