Located between St.Malo and The Somme in Normandy France is the apple rich area of France known as Calvados where one of the world’s famous fruit brandies originates. With the city of Caen as it’s capital , this region of production was first named in 1949 and has 11 sub-regions within Calvados itself.
The best region is the appelation Pays d’Auge found inland from the town of Lisieux where the pot still is used leaving more flavouring characteristics in the finished product , unlike the patent still which is used more often elsewhere ending up with a spirit lighter in body and structure.
Forty-eight different varieties of apples are used in making Calvados ranging from tart to sweet with pears even used to bulk up the spirit.
How Calvados is made is an example of how other fruit brandies are made and if you remember the Cognac post on where after distillation only the hearts are kept for the double distillation this is the same.
First the fruit is crushed to a pulp and the following fermentation when it is complete has turned this apple pulp into a cider. Transferred to a pot still , it goes through a double distillation process.
After the first distillation a spirit of 30% alcohol is produced with the spirit being of a low quality but then once the second distillation is done the hearts remain and the heads and tails of the spirit are sent back to join the next group of cider to be distilled. Once the second distillation is complete the spirit should be around 60% alcohol.
Now we have a spirit ready to be aged in Limousin oak casks made locally from the nearby forests or in old sherry casks where it will take on a golden amber color over the next 3 to 10 years.
Label terms on the Calvados bottle will indicate how many years the spirit has been aged in wood.
Three Stars – a minimum of 2 years
Vieux or Reserve – a minimum of 3 years
VO or Vieux Reserve – a minimum of 4 years
VSOP – a minimum of 5 years
Hors d’Age or Age Inconnu – 5 years onward
Calvados should be drank the same way as brandy and that being after dinner in a snifter. However it is used often in classical fine dining usually between the fish and main course as a palate cleanser when it is drank in one gulp. Called the Normand holemaker or Le Trou Normand in French it is said that it creates some room in your stomach to handle the rest of the meal hence it’s name.
An American equivalent is Applejack Brandy distilled from the cider of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples and aged the same way as Calvados in France.