Calvados, a quintessential Norman brandy, is exported all over the world. In France, calvados is well on the way to winning over a new generation of interested and demanding consumers, thanks to the audacity of some producers and merchant-producers in the region.
When tradition goes hand in hand with innovation
Calvados, a quintessential Norman brandy, is exported all over the world. Thanks to a new generation of adventurous producers and <i>négociants-éleveurs</i>, calvados has broken free from its insular image and obsolete modes of consumption. These producers came off the beaten track to find a means of enhancing all the richness and aromatic diversity of this spirit. They have achieved this through a variety of oak casks and the expression of different terroirs. Port, Madeira and sherry casks all lend themselves to the creation of new taste experiences. Amongst these, <i>Blanche de Normandie</i> is an un-aged version of this apple brandy: calvados in its simplest form.
The Garden of Eden
Apples and pears
There are four main types of cider apple varieties: bittersharps, bittersweets, sharps and sweets. The bittersharps are high in tannins and bring structure to the finished product while the bittersweets provide fruitiness and richness. The sweet apples are used primarily for the cider’s alcohol content and The sharps provide the necessary amount of acidity.
Within the strict AOC (Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées) framework, a large variety of apples is planted in the orchards to compensate for the years of low yields. Calvados is never made from just one variety of apple. During the 1990s, the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine - the National Institute for Product Designation of Origin) recorded over 200 varieties. Even if only twenty or so of these are regularly cultivated, variety guarantees quality. Pears must also be produced locally. The ‘Plant de Blanc’ variety is used more and more to produce these pears, which are too bitter to be eaten.
Besides the variety of apples and pears, the type of orchard and soil in which the trees grow have a real impact on the finished product.
- Tall standard trees: meadow orchards with tall standard trees dominate the Norman countryside. These orchards are characterised by meadows with Normandy cows grazing amongst tall standard apple and pear trees. These trees bear their first fruit after 10 years and reach full maturity from 30 years onwards. They can even reach the venerable age of 70 years old. The highest density of an orchard of this type is 250 plants per hectare for cider apple trees and 150 plants per hectare for pears. Mechanical shaking of pear trees is forbidden during harvest.
- Half standard trees: these orchards are a more modern phenomenon and exclusively dedicated to intensive fruit production. The trees produce their first apples after five years and can live for 30 or so years. The orchard is mechanically maintained and plant density is much higher (1000 apple trees per hectare), yielding an average of 35 metric tons per hectare. Though this form of cultivation was very fashionable in the 1980s, it is now becoming obsolete in favour of meadow orchards which produce far better fruit.