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Apple orchards and brewers are mentioned as far back as the 8th century by Charlemagne. The first known Norman distillation was carried out by ‘Lord’ de Gouberville in 1554, and the guild for cider 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 , Maine and Normandy. 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 outbreak devastated vineyards calvados experienced a ‘golden age’. During World War I cider brandy was made for armaments. The appellation contrôlée 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. 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 got its recognition in 1991; in 1997 an appellation for Domfront with 30% pears was created.

Process of fabrication

The fruit is picked and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into eau de vie. 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. A half-bottle of twenty-year-old Calvados can easily command the same price as a normal-sized bottle of ten-year-old Calvados.

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 traditional alembic pot-still ‘l'alambic à repasse’ or ‘charentais’. Gives complex, delicate and rich fruity aromas with potential for longer aging.
    • Single continuous distillation in a column still. Gives a fresh and clean apple flavour but less complex flavour to evolve with longer aging.
    • Producing regions and legal definitions

Like most French wines, Calvados is governed by appellation contrôlée regulations. There are three appelations for calvados:

The AOC calvados area includes all of the Calvados, Manche, and Orne départements and parts of Eure, Mayenne, Sarthe, and Eure-et-Loir.

    • 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 area is limited to the east end of the départementof 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.

See others examples :