If you drive along the roads of Fjord Norway in summer and autumn, you will find many stalls where you can buy a punnet of something delicious. In addition to fresh fruit, you will also find apple juice and jam that have been made along the fjords – and not least cider.
Hardanger and Sogn are particularly well known for their cider and fruit wine tradition. Many local manufacturers have started selling their products in state wine-monopoly shops and in grocery stores. "Cider from Hardanger" has become the first alcoholic product in Norway to become a protected geographical indication. Cider has become very popular in recent years, and Norwegians haven’t bought as much locally produced alcohol since the 1930s.
But it all started a long time ago: A total of 54 apples were found in the queen’s grave during the excavation of the Oseberg ship. References are also made to apple orchards in the Icelandic sagas. The ancient Norwegian fruit was considered so valuable that stealing another man’s apples was a punishable offence! We find the first written account of growing fruit in Norway from Vik in Sogn. An episode dating from 1201 is mentioned in Sverris saga, which makes reference to an ‘Aldin orchard’ (Aldin is Norse for apple). Magnus the Lawmender’s city law from 1276 referred to "the King’s apple orchard" at Håkon’s Hall in Bergen. Growing apples appears to have subsequently become a widespread practice in Fjord Norway.
When people started producing cider and fruit wine is rather uncertain however. The Hamar Chronicle from around 1550 states that fruit wine and apple cider were sold before the Reformation. However, the Vikings already had a strong drink made from apples, berries, honey and herbs that they called "bjor".
In Fjord Norway, you can go on a cider safari in Hardanger and taste the traditional fruity ciders that are typical of the area, or you can head for the Sognefjord and enjoy a multitude of ciders made from pears, berries, rhubarb, hops, malt, honey or bitter cider apples. Both destinations will introduce you to the local history, culture and production methods. You can buy local cider in a number of restaurants, which is a great alternative to foreign wines, both as an aperitif and to enjoy with your food.