A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway

Next summer, after the corona crisis, hopefully you can walk, bike or take a boat between the farms to taste the new hit, pearly apple cider, a taste of France in Hardanger, Norway.

The hillsides of the majestic mountains above the Hardanger fjord with its multitude of waterfalls and snow-covered peaks are forested with apple trees in full bloom. The region of Hardangerfjord, together with Sognefjord, are the two main cider production areas in Norway and has been an important European tourist destination since the 19th century. It’s the perfect choice for active or more relaxing holidays.

The Hardanger fjord is 179 km (111 miles) long and the 3rd longest in the world. Hardanger has been closely associated with apple production for hundreds of years, and has naturally taken a leading role in the increasing popularity of locally-produced cider over the last few years.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
The Hardanger fjord, Norway. Photo: Fjord Norway

Related: Everything Smells of Apples in Hardanger

A long tradition
Here, many noses have been dipped into large wine glasses while the laughter has resounded. Taste is formed by several senses. The social aspects of cider tasting are sometimes just as important as sweetness, fruitiness and aroma.

In the 13th century, apple cultivation was introduced by Cistercian monks from England. Today 40 percent of all Norwegian fruit is grown in Hardanger, including apples, morels, plums, and pears.  The production of apple cider was considerably larger in the period between 1890-1920.  In 1921, however, stricter laws were put in place around the sale of alcohol, and the following year Vinmonopolet (the Wine Monopoly) was founded.  That shut the cider factories down, but the traditions lived on in people’s cellars and outhouses. The cider produced at home had a varying quality, and was often sweet and high in alcohol.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
Hardanger Cider

Related: On the Blooming Banks of Queen of Fjords

The Champagne district for apple cider
Today, however, the producers in Hardanger are keen to become the equivalent of the Champagne district for apple cider. And they may well be on their way to achieving that goal, as, in 2009, ‘Cider from Hardanger’ was the first alcoholic product in Norway to be given a protected geographical indication.

A new generation and a whole new time for the fruit farmers in the heart of Hardanger have appeared. The combination of fruit blossoms, snow-capped mountains and one of the world’s longest fjords will still attract visitors from Norway and abroad. Traditional fruit growing will continue, but more and more apples are now going to cider production locally.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
Today 40 percent of all Norwegian fruit is grown in Hardanger. Photo: Matmerk

You may also be interested in Apple Art in Southern Sweden

New rules
In 2016, the rules changed to enable producers of mead and apple cider to sell them on site. This has created a market for unique food and drink experiences.

The farm Aga Sideri, for instance, had been empty for 10 years until 2017, when Joar Aga bought his childhood farm located in Ullensvang. The investment in apples was natural, and Joar participated for the first time in the cider competition during Hardanger cider festival in 2017, where he won the class for amateurs.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
Bleie farm, Hardanger: Photo: Digital Museum

This gave inspiration to invest, and in 2018 he won the class for professionals with Lagmann cider. This is named after the nearest neighbor Agatunet, which is located 50 meters from the sidewalk with roots dating back to the Viking Age.

The first cider route
There are no requirements of the type of apple used, the alcohol percentage or the quantity of sugar, but the ingredients must be grown in Hardanger. That’s how unique the culture and apples are. No wonder then that many people insist on their cider coming from Hardanger, so look for the label the next time you’re at Vinmonopolet to be sure you’re getting the real deal!

The first cider route where tourists can take a boat between the farms in Hardanger to taste different types of cider and eat local food started this summer. The boat offer is in addition to open farm shops that sell cider and offer tastings. Thus, you can now walk on foot between the cider farms, bike, drive a car or take a boat.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
The producers in Hardanger are keen to become the equivalent of the Champagne district for apple cider. Photo: Aga Sider

Food and drink competitions
Last year, Aga participated in the huge Norwegian food and drink competition, called Det Norske Måltid (The Norwegian Meal). Two of the three ciders in the final were from Aga, and the cider called Bøddel (Executioner) won 1st place and got the title “The Cider of the Year 2019”.

Another farm is Bleie I Sørfjorden, surrounded by steep mountains and the Folgefonna glacier. The juice and cider producer, which in 2018 was awarded the best in Norway, sells the noble drops from both the farm and Vinmonopolet. Gravenstein-, Discovery-, Summer red-, and Aroma apples are used in Bleie’s production of the traditional beverage. The farm is open for private individuals, but also for groups by appointment.

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway
Would you like to combine beautiful scenery with local artisan delicacies? Or are you just keen to learn a little more about this ‘promised’ drink?

National Geographic Traveler Magazine has called this area “the world’s most iconic destination”.

Feature image (on top): Photo © De historiske hoteller

A Taste of France in Hardanger, Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg

Previous articleTop Scandinavian Universities for Foreigners
Next articleNew Spectacular Step Bridge in Norway
Avatar photo
Journalist, PR and marketing consultant Tor Kjolberg has several degrees in marketing management. He started out as a marketing manager in Scandinavian companies and his last engagement before going solo was as director in one of Norway’s largest corporations. Tor realized early on that writing engaging stories was more efficient and far cheaper than paying for ads. He wrote hundreds of articles on products and services offered by the companies he worked for. Thus, he was attuned to the fact that storytelling was his passion.