The ABC of Spirits by Alexandre Vingtier: C for Calvados

C for Calvados

 

Like any good self-respecting Norman, my family counted its Calvados producers three generations back. At that time, all orchard owners transformed their apples and pears into cider and/or perry and reserved a portion for distillation. A fraction was then bottled directly, without dilution, the right very fruity drop ideal for the Norman hole, while the rest was stored in larger or smaller barrels for several years or even decades for some.

Even if a good part of the traditional orchards has disappeared, this practice still exists, fortunately. Many private individuals or farms still produce their cider eaux-de-vie thanks to around thirty professional itinerant distillers travelling throughout the region, well beyond the limits of the AOC area. The basis of the Calvados culture is still alive. Beyond the production for family consumption, there are about four hundred AOC producers, a few dozen of which are real distillery farms with their own stills, ironing or column stills, and a few large operators producing several hundred thousand litres or more.

In the early 1940s, there were no fewer than eleven historical appellations, which can be considered as vintages because of their climatic characteristics and soil types, to which certain varieties of apple and pear trees are adapted, and where cider and brandy production practices can vary. One can imagine many differences between the tip of the Cotentin near Cherbourg and the deep Perche or the Pays de Bray north of Rouen. Unfortunately, the new regulations of 2015 definitively prevent these wines from being mentioned outside the AOC Pays d’Auge and Domfrontais, even though they are part of Normandy’s heritage. Couldn’t we at least for the farm productions, and thus only transforming their fruits from A to Z on site, from the orchard to the bottling, put these terroirs back in front of us? Calvados from Calvados, Cotentin, Avranchin, Vallée de l’Orne, Pays du Merlerault, Mortainais, Perche, Pays de la Risle and Pays de Bray must not remain in the shade!

 

Alexandre Vingtier