Theo is the fifth generation of Hotte to farm these fields around the town of Eaux-Puiseaux in the Pays d'Othe. The family's old orchards were ripped up and planted to grains after World War Two, but Theo's father began growing apples again in the 1990s, planting varieties indigenous to the area: Avrolles, Locard, Nez Plat, Chatagnier Bondon, Petit Jaune, Jolibois, Sebin, and Verolot, among others. Following in his father's footsteps, Theo works completely organically, and the farm is certified as such. They employ only minimal quantities of copper-sulfate in their fields, which encompass both traditional tree orchards and more modern bush orchards, and their immediate neighbors also farm without synthetic chemicals�so there is no contamination risk from outside the property.
Theo works remarkably naturally in the family's modestly equipped cellar, whose simplicity and rustic charm resonated with us immediately; whether it's for wine or cider, a cellar like La Ferme d'Hotte�s reassures the visitor: fashionable technology finds no purchase here. Apples are pressed within two hours of harvesting, and fermentations proceed in steel without any added yeasts. Pasteurization is never employed, and no sulfur is added at any point, including at bottling. The second fermentation occurs when a small portion of unfermented and unfiltered juice is added to the cider at bottling, generating bubbles as the still-living yeasts in the juice devour the sugar. Theo does nothing to force fermentation to a certain level of sweetness, and the ciders typically end up with around 25 grams per liter of residual sugar, which is counterbalanced by towering yet beautifully integrated acidity (pH is typically 3.3 to 3.5).