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Calvados (spirit)

Calvados (spirit)

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Encyclopedia
Calvados is an apple brandy
Brandy
Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink...

 from the French région of Basse-Normandie
Basse-Normandie
Lower Normandy is an administrative region of France. It was created in 1956, when the Normandy region was divided into Lower Normandy and Upper Normandy...

 or Lower Normandy.

History


Apple orchards and brewers are mentioned as far back as the 8th century by Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

. The first known Norman distillation was carried out by "Lord" de Gouberville in 1554, and the guild for cider
Cider
Cider or cyder is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% abv to 8.5% abv or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, such as Germany and America, cider may be termed "apple wine"...

 distillation was created about 50 years later in 1606. In the 17th century the traditional ciderfarms expanded but taxation and prohibition of cider brandies were enforced elsewhere than Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, Maine
Maine (province)
Le Maine is one of the traditional provinces of France . It corresponds to the old county of Maine, with its center, the city of Le Mans.-Location:...

 and Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. The area called "Calvados" was created after the French Revolution, but "eau de vie de cidre" was already called "calvados" in common usage. In the 19th century output increased with industrial distillation and the working class fashion for "Café-calva". When a phylloxera
Phylloxera
Grape phylloxera ; originally described in France as Phylloxera vastatrix; equated to the previously described Daktulosphaira vitifoliae, Phylloxera vitifoliae; commonly just called phylloxera is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America...

 outbreak in the last quarter of the 19th century devastated the vineyards of France and Europe, calvados experienced a "golden age". During World War I cider brandy was requisitioned for use in armaments due to its alcohol content. The appellation contrôlée
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
Appellation d’origine contrôlée , which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut National...

 regulations officially gave calvados a protected name in 1942. After the war many cider-houses and distilleries were reconstructed, mainly in the Pays d'Auge
Pays d'Auge
The Pays d'Auge is an area in Normandy, straddling the départements of Calvados and Orne . The chief town is Lisieux.-Geography:Generally it consists of the basin of the Touques River....

. Many of the traditional farmhouse structures were replaced by modern agriculture with high output. The calvados appellation system was revised in 1984 and 1996. Pommeau
Pommeau
Pommeau is an alcoholic drink made in northern France by mixing apple juice with apple brandy .It is consumed as an apéritif, or as an accompaniment to melon or blue cheese...

 got its recognition in 1991; in 1997 an appellation for Domfront
Domfront, Orne
Domfront is a commune in the Orne department in north-western France.Beginning from the strategically sited castle of Domfront, the dispossessed count Henry, youngest son of William the Conqueror, rallied support among local lords and eventually ruled the Anglo-Norman dominions as Henry I of...

 with 30% pears was created.

Cider brandy is also made in the UK, and appears in records going back to 1678. Somerset cider brandy gained european protected geographical indication (PGI) status in 2011.

Production


Calvados is distilled from specially grown and selected apples, of which there are over 200 named varieties. It is not uncommon for a Calvados producer to use over 100 specific varieties of apples, which are either sweet (such as the Rouge Duret variety), tart (such as the Rambault variety), or bitter (such as the Mettais, Saint Martin, Frequin, and Binet Rouge varieties), the latter being inedible.

The fruit is harvested (either by hand or mechanically) and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider
Cider
Cider or cyder is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% abv to 8.5% abv or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, such as Germany and America, cider may be termed "apple wine"...

. It is then distilled into eau de vie
Eau de vie
An eau de vie is a clear, colorless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation...

. After two years aging in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years.

Double and single distillation



The appellation of AOC calvados authorizes double distillation for all calvados but it is required for the AOC calvados Pays d’Auge.
  • Double distillation is carried out in a traditional alembic
    Alembic
    An alembic is an alchemical still consisting of two vessels connected by a tube...

     pot still
    Pot still
    A pot still is a type of still used in distilling spirits such as whisky or brandy. Heat is applied directly to the pot containing the wash or wine . This is called a batch distillation ....

    , called either "l'alambic à repasse" or "charentais".
  • Single continuous distillation in a column still.

The usual arguments for and against the two processes are that the former process gives the spirit complexity and renders it suitable for longer aging whilst the latter process gives the calvados a fresh and clean apple flavour but with less complexity. In fact there is a growing belief that a well operated column still can produce as complex and "age-able" Calvados as Double Distillation.

Producing regions and legal definitions



Like most French wines, Calvados is governed by appellation contrôlée regulations. There are three appellations for calvados:
  • The AOC calvados area includes all of the Calvados
    Calvados
    The French department of Calvados is part of the region of Basse-Normandie in Normandy. It takes its name from a cluster of rocks off the English Channel coast...

    , Manche
    Manche
    Manche is a French department in Normandy named after La Manche , which is the French name for the English Channel.- History :Manche is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

    , and Orne
    Orne
    Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

     départements and parts of Eure
    Eure
    Eure is a department in the north of France named after the river Eure.- History :Eure is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

    , Mayenne
    Mayenne
    Mayenne is a department in northwest France named after the Mayenne River.-History:Mayenne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. The northern two thirds correspond to the western part of the former province of Maine...

    , Sarthe
    Sarthe
    Sarthe is a French department, named after the Sarthe River.- History :The department was created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790, pursuant to the law of December 22, 1789, starting from a part of the province of Maine which was divided into two departments, Sarthe to the east and...

    , and Eure-et-Loir
    Eure-et-Loir
    Eure-et-Loir is a French department, named after the Eure and Loir rivers.-History:Eure-et-Loir is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 pursuant to the Act of December 22, 1789...

    .
    • AOC calvados makes up for over 70 percent of the total production.
    • Minimum of two years ageing in oak barrels.
    • The terroir, geographical area, is defined.
    • The apples and pears are defined cider varieties.
    • The procedures in production like pressing, fermentation, distillation and ageing is regulated.
    • Usually single column distillation.

  • The more restrictive AOC calvados Pays d'Auge
    Pays d'Auge
    The Pays d'Auge is an area in Normandy, straddling the départements of Calvados and Orne . The chief town is Lisieux.-Geography:Generally it consists of the basin of the Touques River....

    area is limited to the east end of the of Calvados and a few adjoining districts.
    • Extensive quality control—the basic rules for AOC calvados together with several additional requirements.
    • Ageing for minimum of two years in oak barrels.
    • Double distillation in an alembic pot-still.
    • Produced within the designated area in Pays d'Auge.
    • A minimum of six weeks fermentation of the cider.
    • Flavour elements are controlled.


  • AOC calvados Domfrontais reflects the long tradition of pear orchards in the area, resulting in a unique fruity calvados. The regulation is similar to the AOC calvados and the column still is used.
    • A minimum of 30 percent pears from the designated areas is used.
    • A three-year minimum of ageing in oak barrels.
    • The orchards must consist of at least 15 percent of pear trees (25 percent from the sixteenth harvest).

  • Fermier "farm-made" calvados—some quality minded producers both inside and outside the Pays d’Auge make "calvados fermier", which indicates that the calvados is entirely made on the farm in a traditional agricultural way according to high quality demands.

Grades of quality


The age on the bottle refers to the youngest constituent of the blend. A blend is often composed of old and young calvados. Producers can also use the terms below to refer to the age.
  • "Fine", "Trois étoiles ***", "Trois pommes"—at least two years old.
  • "Vieux"—"Réserve"—at least three years old.
  • "V.O." "VO", "Vieille Réserve", "V.S.O.P." "VSOP"—at least four years old.
  • "Extra", "X.O." "XO", "Napoléon", "Hors d'Age" "Age Inconnu"—at least six years old. Often sold much older.


High quality calvados usually has parts which are much older than that mentioned. Calvados can be made from a single (generally, exceptionally good) year. When this happens, the label often carries that year.

Tasting



Calvados is the basis of the tradition of le trou Normand, or "the Norman hole". This is a small drink of Calvados taken between courses in a very long meal, sometimes with apple sorbet, supposed to re-awaken the appetite. Calvados can be served as apéritif
Aperitif
Apéritifs and digestifs are alcoholic drinks that are normally served with meals.-Apéritifs:An apéritif is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. This contrasts with digestifs, which are served after a meal for the purpose of aiding digestion...

, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavours of aging. The less aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The longer the calvados is aged, the more the taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. As calvados ages, it may become golden or darker brown with orange elements and red mahogany. The nose and palate are delicate with concentration of aged apples and dried apricots balanced with butterscotch, nut and chocolate aromas.

In popular culture


Calvados is the regimental drink of The Royal Canadian Hussars
The Royal Canadian Hussars (Montreal)
The Royal Canadian Hussars is a Primary Reserve armoured regiment of the Canadian Forces. The unit is based in Montreal.-Lineage:...

and Le Régiment de Maisonneuve
Le Régiment de Maisonneuve
Le Régiment de Maisonneuve is a Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces.The regiment is Canada's twenty-sixth most senior reserve infantry regiment, and comprises one battalion serving as part of the Land Force Reserve.-History:...

, having been taken up as the units passed through Normandy following the D-Day invasion. Known as Le Trou Normand
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, it is normally taken as a palate cleanser between courses at a regimental dinner.

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