Normandy, in northwesters France on the Atlantic Ocean, is famous for its deeply flavoured butter, cream cheeses, and calvados, the world famous apple brandy.
Other regions all over the world attempt to produce apple brandy using local varieties, but nine, so far, has come even close to the superb taste of calvados.
Charlemagne first mentioned apple orchards and cider brewers of Calvados, in the eight century. The first person to distil cider was Lord de Gouberville in 1554.
Normans have always been proud of their fish and shellfish specialties liberally laced with rich cream and calvados, their butter, and soft cheeses.
During the phylloxera epidemic in the 17th century, Calvados brandy enjoyed its “Golden Age”, as vineyards lay dying in Charante Maritime further south, and brandy was a rare commodity few could afford.
Once phylloxera was conquered, Calvados’s popularity started the fade.
In 1942 appellation controlle right were granted by the French authorities and were revised in 1984 and 1996. Domfront, a blend of 70 percent Calvados and 30 percent pear brandy, was recognized officially in 1997.
By law 200 different apple varieties can be used to produce calvados. Of those rouge duret, rambault, mettais, St. Martin, frequin, and binet rouge are the most common. Some are sweet, many are sour which provide Calvados its distinct flavour.
According to AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) laws calvados Pays d’Auge must be double distilled in alembic style stills or in a Coffey still a.k.a columnar still that actually does the job faster using steam and also double distils.
must be barrel aged for a minimum of two years.
Harvesting time, harvesting methods, pressing, fermentation and distillation are regulated and strictly controlled.
The area of production is well defined.
Cider must be aged for a minimum of six weeks before bottling, and/or distillation.
Domfrontais, the blend of Calvados and pear brandy, must be aged for a minimum of three years.
When buying Calvados,
read the label carefully to discern smoothness.
Fine (XXX) means the product was barrel aged for two years
Vieux reserve, three, V O (vieille reserve) or V S O, four years, XO, X.O., Napoleon, hors d’age, age inconnu must be aged for a minimum of six years.
In most cases, distillers age much longer than minimum aging requirements. Normans are known for their healthy appetite and indulge in extensive meals.
Halfway through the meal, it is customary to drink a shot of calvados called Trou Normande to contract the extended stomach in order to be able to eat more.
Calvados can be used for roast loin of pork, and sauce made using the drippings, for flaming apples, in apple pies, and to enjoy in a snifter after extended and/o rich meals.
Now there is also Calvados cream, fashioned after the Irish Cream, to encourage sales.
As for me, Calvados served at room temperature and in an appropriate snifter tastes best.
It is less expensive than Cognac, or Armagnac, and for those who like apples, it is an
excellent finish to a fine meal.
Famous producers: Pere Magloire, Domaine Dupont (has a unique product called givre created by freezing to increase alcohol content), Boulard, Chateau de Brouay, Christian Drouin, Etienne Dupont, Groult, Adrien Camut, Menroval, Daron, Fiefs de Sainte Anne….