In a country that’s too cold to have grapevines grow successfully, Norwegians often choose beer and/or aquavit when looking for beverages to pair with foods. But what about non alcoholic beverages? Are there any worth mentioning? I personally love the specialty sodas we’ve had for decades ; pineapple, pear, raspberry and of course, the famous Solo, which I’ll touch upon in a later post. I wanted, however, to search for a more artisan and specialty product, geared towards people particularly interested in unique food and drink inventions, and that is how I happened to stumble across this page the other day.
VÅR claims to be the world’s first cider created specifically to be paired with foods; it serves as a great non-alcoholic alternative for people who don’t enjoy beer, wine or spirits. According to VÅR’s website, VÅR is 100% natural, made from a mix of fresh berries and fruit which are harvested and produced on the same day. Gentle treatment is employed to preserve the freshness and aromas in the fruit and berries.
This upscale cider was developed and is a combined effort by the Culinary Academy in Norway, local fruit growers and professional food and drink producers, who have meticulously studied and tested various fruit types, ripeness levels and blending methods, with as much passion and detail as winemakers would invest in producing their wines. Since the individual ciders were created with the intent of matching certain foods, they hope to be able to become a viable alternative to wine and listed on restaurant menus across the country.
The name “VÅR” means “spring” (the season) in Norwegian, and was so named because the cider aims to offer the best from nature, spring being the symbol of the start of life in nature, where the foundation of fruit and berries is laid down. Fruit has been grown since the middle ages in Lier, where the fruit is sourced. The fruit garden has a large collection of old plum and apple trees, as well as red currant bushes. The climate in this region is also optimal to produce high quality berries and fruit.
The different flavors offered currently by VÅR are as follows:
VÅR Apple, Cherries and Aronia (Chokeberries) – pairs well with game and meat dishes, with spiced butter and mushroom sauces. Picture of aronia berries in case you are not familiar:
VÅR Apples and Black Currant – pairs well with lighter meats and mushrooms, as well as cheeses like chevre.
VÅR Apples, Red Currants and Rhubarb – perfect when you need a partner for salad with vinaigrettes, salmon dishes, tuna, chicken, vegetables and herbs.
VÅR Apples and Rhubarb – choose this with fish and shellfish dishes, especially cream or butter based sauces, as well as a great companion to fruit tarts, apple pie, and white chocolate.
VÅR Gravenstein Apples and Gooseberries – this is best enjoyed as an aperitif, and perhaps some salty hors d’ouevres and cheeses.
VÅR has been approved as a “specialty product” by the Norwegian organization Matmerk. Matmerk ensures quality and protects the geographical origins of foods, much like the French AOC does for wine and their cheeses, olive oils, etc. In order to achieve this mark, the producer has to prove, document and fulfill all the criteria set forth for these particular products. The products have to have special added quality, setting them apart from others. This can be selection of a special ingredient, a particular production method, or a quality like taste, freshness and ripeness. The product also has to have some type of history, hence it ‘s the total “package” that counts.
VÅR was created for people who are a a little more than above interested in food and drink, and several top chefs in Norway have now set their eyes on this cider. In 2010, two of the flavors received the “Superior Taste Award” , and in 2012 three other flavors received the same accolade. The Superior Taste Award has been called the Michelin Guide to Food, and the jury consists of a group of highly profiled chefs and sommeliers who are expert tasters and have worked and trained all over the world.
Each bottle retails for around $16 or so – not cheap, but I trust it’s well worth it. The cider is also distributed through Tine, a company with presence in the U.S. – so who knows if we will see this product in the U.S. in the near future? At least I know what I’ll be trying out this spring when I visit Norway!
Images courtesy of Sunniva.no