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Calvados is only be made in Normandy or its outskirts and is distilled from cider made with apples or pears. Typically, a combination of sweet and bitter apples will be used to make the initial cider, but the type of soil and the way the fruit is pressed will also affect the quality.
The Calvados region is located in Basse-Normandie (Lowe Normandy), where apple cider was brewed perhaps as early as the 8th century and, today, Calvados is one of France’s best-loved brandies, though unlike the grape brandies Cognac and Armagnac, Calvados is distilled from cider.
Whilst the popularity of French apple brandy grew, taxation and prohibition more or less contained it within the Calvados area, and after the French Revolution when the area was properly identified, the term Calvados was already in common usage when referring to apple brandy. The phylloxera outbreak during the 19th century ruined so many vineyards that Calvados experienced a boom in popularity – it is unaffected by the pest.
Calvados is a very popular digestif, and in France, it is enjoyed as part of a “café-calva” – a hot coffee served with a glass of Calvados.
Calvados is distilled from a number of different apple varieties (over 200 are legally permitted), and it is not uncommon for there to be over 100 different varieties used to make a single Calvados. A combination of sweet, tart and inedible bitter apples are used to attain the right balance of flavor.
Calvados has three main production zones, each with its typical flavor profile: Calvados Pays d’Auge (rich, round, complex); Calvados (fresh, fruity, pungent); and Calvados Domfrontais (floral, with a pleasant sourness).
In terms of aging, calvados uses the following definitions: