Calvados is a brandy from a limited and strictly controlled area of Normandy in north-west France, where the temperate, maritime climate has long been perfect for fruit orchards. Calvados must be distilled from cider and/or perry, and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
The delimited region has three crus with differing production regulations and fruit requirements. All Pays d’Auge calvados is made from 100 % apples whilst a minimum of 30 % pears is mandatory in Domfront. Interesting to note, is that to maintain the influence of the pear in the Domfront, all orchards in this region must be planted with a minimum of 15 % pears and after 16 years the legal minimum is 25 %.
What is Calvados Made From?
It is made from apples and /or pears ; both of which are members of the rose family.
Neither the apples nor the pears used are eating varieties ; they are very small, highly aromatic, extremely acidic and ideal for distillation. Calvados needs a broad palette in terms of aromas and tastes in order to produce a balanced, complex spirit. Therefore, as many as 48 different types of apples are permitted, which are classified into four groups :
bitter (e.g. Kermerien)
bitter/sweet (e.g. Mettais)
acidic (e.g. Rambault)
sweet (e.g. Binet Rouge)
Calvados must contain a minimum of 70 % bitter and bitter-sweet varieties and maximum of 30 % acidic varieties. Pears tend to be sweeter and bring discernible differences to calvados producing more feminine, elegant brandies with bouquet and fragrance. As with all appellations, the stated age must be that of the youngest constituent part of the blend.
3 stars Minimum 2 years ; except in Domfront where it is 3 years
Vieux/Reserve Minimum 3 years
Vieille Reserve/VSO P Minimum 4 years
Hors d’Age/Age Inconnu Minimum 6 years
Extra/XO /Napoleon Minimum 6 years
single vintage year/age statement
Maturation first briefly takes place in new oak casks, either Limousin or Tronçais, with a subsequent transfer to old Norman oak casks. Norman oak is a very dry wood, and when old does not give much in the way of character to the spirit. However, it does allow for a gentle evaporation, and therefore, concentration of the calvados.