The cultivation of apples in the French Basque Country dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages, when apple orchards featured in the lists of assets belonging to the bourgeois families of the time. Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela whose path crossed this part of the Basque Country mentioned the area’s immense apple orchards and high cider consumption in chronicles from the 11th century.
Until cultivation fell in the 19th century, two zones were historically used for apple growing. Fruit destined for the local markets and the many ports was cultivated along the coast, while the apples to be used for cider were grown further inland, at the foot of the hills. Indeed, the slightly sharp but very thirst-quenching sagarno (Basque cider) used to be found on every table in the Aquitaine region.
The apple varieties used to make sagarno give it a very high acidity level, distinguishing it from the ciders of Normandy and Asturias. The main varieties used for the Basque cider are Eztika and satiny-white Mamula, which are slightly tannic without being bitter or floury. Also used is Anisa, which is also good eaten raw or cooked into jelly and can also be placed in wardrobes to scent clothes.
This area is home to many other heirloom apple varieties, like Peatxa (gray and wrinkly, with very acidic juice), Amuna, Douloumia, Ondomotxa (smaller than the others), Gordin Xuria, Eri Sagarra and many others.
The first apples begin to ripen from the end of September to the middle of October, while others mature from the end of October to the middle of November. To make cider, the apples are selected, washed and pressed to extract the juice. The juice is carefully filtered to remove residues and to concentrate it as much as possible, then left to ferment slowly, for between three and five months, to preserve its aromas.
Sagarno can be still or slightly sparkling and dry or semi-dry. The color ranges from pale yellow to golden, and the taste is acidic, with slightly tannic notes. The alcohol level varies from 5% to 11%.
Over time, around 16,000 apple trees have been replanted in the three provinces of the northern Basque Country, and the association has produced around 150,000 bottles of Sagarno cider and 50,000 liters of apple juice. The Presidium works to protect the local heirloom varieties and to promote the sensory qualities of the cider and juices.
Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, Aquitaine region, northern Basque Country
Presidium supported by
European Leader and Feader projects, Aquitaine Regional Authority, Department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Arrapitz association
tél. +33 5 59 37 87 12 – 6 33 53 26 33
ref. Marie Ascona Lourme
64240 La Bastide Clairence
tél. +33 6 83 17 24 97
tél. +33 5 59 49 18 22 – 6 87 44 80 91
tél. +33 5 59 54 22 16 – 6 76 24 94 56
Marie Ascona Lourme
tel. +33 559378712
tel. +33 559491822