Cognac Expert is a site about cognac, of course. But on occasion we like to provide a bit of information about other brandies, of which calvados is one.
Calvados is a brandy produced from apples, although on occasion sweet pears can also be used. It is produced in the Calvados region of Normandy, a fairly damp area of northern France where it is ideal for growing the small apples with an intense flavour which make up the drink. There are over 200 different varieties of these apples, and many calvados producers may grow anything up to 100 different types. The apples are defined into three groups – sweet, tart or bitter.
It is normal for the apples to be picked by hand and pulped by a crusher into a cider. To qualify for AOC appellation, the calvados must then be double distilled before being aged in oak barrels. However, single distillation does occur as well. It is aged for a minimum of two years and sometimes ex-port or ex-sherry barrels are used for this process.
As with cognac, when calvados is bottled it can be labelled with similar terms;
- Trois Étoiles (Three Stars) or Trois Pommes – aged for a minimum of 2 years
- Vieux or Reserve – aged for a minimum of 3 years
- VO or VSOP – aged for a minimum of 4 years
- XO – at least 6 years old and often much older
These refer to the youngest element of the blend. In the case of an extraordinary good year, the calvados may not be a blend and will have the year on the label.
Although calvados has been produced since at least the mid-1500s, it is no way as well-known as cognac or other brandies. In fact, only around 200,000 bottles per year are sold in the U.S, as opposed to the 40 odd million bottles of cognac.
Sources: www.enwikipedia.org, www.drinkfocus.com
Pic: Map Creative Commons 2.5 générique, Henrik mattson