Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados — this is the famous trio of brandies, presented to the world by France. The most well-known of them is the first one, and the most beloved by the French is, beyond all doubt, the last one. Calvados — is a type of brandy made from apple cider and pears. Let’s learn a little bit more about this "apple aristocrat".
First, you need to know that not every apple or pear brandy can be called calvados. According to the French law, this name can only be worn by brandy produced in certain areas of Normandy and have the mark Appellation d’Origine Controlee on the label. These regions are divided into smaller subregions and each of them has their own Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC).
Three Calvados Regions:
- AOC Calvados. This is the biggest region where 70% of all calvados is made. It is situated in Basse-Normandie land. The spirit is made predominantly by using single column distillation.
- AOC Pays d’Auge Calvados. This region occupies a small territory around Eure and Orne. Calvados here is double distilled in pot stills. The percentage of pears must be a maximum of 30%.
- AOC Calvados Domfrontais. It is a small land, covered by the city of Domfront. Calvados here must be produced with at least 30% perry pears using a single column distillation method.
How Calvados is Made?
A unique bouquet of Calvados is obtained due to the fact that sweet, bitter, bittersweet and sour apple varieties are mixed in certain proportions. More than 120 apple varieties are used in the production of Calvados. Sweet apples give the drink sugar and alcohol, bitter and bittersweet variations are responsible for tannins, and tart apples give acidity and freshness. Moreover, the apple trees are initially planted in such a way that the desired ratio is obtained, and the varieties are mixed when they are harvested.
After being collected, the apples are washed, crushed and pressed. Then they are left for three months for fermentation. The receiving liquid is a low alcohol cider 4.5% ABV. The cider is single distilled in a column still or double distilled in a pot still. Calvados must be aged in French oak casks for at least 2 years. Correct ageing of Calvados is a kind of art, a decisive stage in the entire production process since the quality of the drink improves significantly through the years. Over time, calvados reaches saturation, matures, its colour changes from golden to deep amber, developing aromas of vanilla, butterscotch, nut, chocolate, and spice. Calvados is bottled at 40-50% ABV.
The age categories of Calvados, that you can see on its label:
- Fine (also called Trois étoiles or Trois Pommes) — a drink aged in oak for at least 2 years.
- Vieux (or Réserve) — must be aged for 3 years.
- VSOP (V.O. or Viele Réserve) — category starts from 4 years of ageing.
- XO (X.O., Extra, Napoleon, Hors d'Age, Tres Vieille Reserve)— the youngest alcohol in the blend is at least 6 years old.
How to Drink Calvados and Pair It With Food?
As is the case with cognac or whisky, it all depends on the type of drink and its ageing. Drinks under the age of four can be sipped during feasts. Moreover, the Normans, who know a lot about the beneficial effect of calvados on digestion, highly recommend drinking this delicious spirit when making a pause between meals. Young Calvados, by the way, also goes well as an aperitif, while mature calvados will perfectly match with cheeses and can serve as a digestif.
One more classic combination is Calvados and fruit desserts. Calvados is used in cooking of sauces and baking, and can also be excellent in cocktails, for example, in combination with sparkling wine, tonic or its "parent" — cider.Try our best-seller Avallen Calvados. This liquor is a delicious mix of nothing but fresh apples, water, and time. Expect bright apple aromas, followed by floral notes and resulting in a warming vanilla custard finish. That bomb of tastes is definitely worth trying.