I have only heard of Calvados once; it was on the menu at a French restaurant in Port Elizabeth that reinvented the classic Duck à l’Orange with Calvados, but I have never forgotten the depth of flavour of that dish.
Calvados is a potent liqueur (30% alcohol) by distilling apples, but unlike a zesty apple cider, the flavour profile can be compared to the depth of a mature brandy. It’s wonderful to drink like a whiskey and marries well with food. I’ve only had it once, about twenty years ago, but it was memorable. I am especially excited to hear that it will be showcased this year at the 10th TOPS at SPAR Wine Show.
Calvados is the basis of the tradition of le trou Normand, or “the Norman hole”. This is a small drink of calvados taken between courses in a very long meal, sometimes with apple or pear sorbet, supposedly to reawaken the appetite. Calvados can be served as an apéritif, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavours of aging. The less-aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The longer the calvados is aged, the more the taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. As calvados ages, it may become golden or darker brown with orange elements and red mahogany. The nose and palate are delicate with concentration of aged apples and dried apricots balanced with butterscotch, nut, and chocolate aromas. Source: Wikipedia.
Roberto Reffo of Adriatic, the exclusive agents for Christian Drouin Calvados in South Africa, tells us a bit more about what sets Calvados’ “Appellation” apart.
Edward Chamberlain-Bell: How do you make Calvados?
Roberto Reffo: Calvados is a distilled cider made of apples or pears which are picked, ground and pressed to a juice that is fermented into a dry cider, aged and distilled. After two years of ageing in an oak cask, it can be sold as Calvados. Usually the ageing continues for several years.
ECB: What is the best way to drink it?
RR: Calvados can be served as an aperitif, blended in cocktails, in between meals, as a digestive or with coffee. The traditional way to drink Calvados is neat in small glasses at room temperature, similar to a brandy or grappa or over ice in a cognac glass.
ECB: What is the family history behind Christian Drouin Calvados?
RR: The story of Christian Drouin began in 1960. Christian Drouin, an industrialist from Rouen, decided to purchase a farm in Gonneville. His decision was to use the farm to grow cider apples and begin the production of Calvados. He had a simple goal of creating the highest quality spirit possible. The younger Christian Drouin admits that his father passed on the passion for Calvados. He has created the brand that has given his family business an international reputation. It reaches markets all around the world, from Japan to the US and, of course, South Africa.
ECB: What sets the Coeur de Lion estate and orchard apart from others?
RR: Coeur de Lion estate is only planted with traditional low yielding apple varieties. They are carefully selected in order to ensure the perfect balance between the four categories of apples: sweet, bittersweet, bitter and acid. The Coeur de Lion estate has many small casks which allows for greater exchanges between wood and spirit. This estate embodies the oldest traditions for distilling Calvados and ensures the highest quality products.
ECB: To make Calvados, approximately 30 varieties of apples are used. Why is this?
RR: Not any apple can be used for Calvados; instead small fruits with aromatic characteristics are used. There are over 6 000 varieties of apples and harvesting begins mid-October through November and the beginning of December. Normandy has hundreds of different varieties each with different taste profiles − classified into four categories of bitter, bittersweet, sweet and acidulous. Calvados requires different tastes and aromas from various types of apples to blend and create a full bodied, smooth Calvados.
ECB: How do the different casks you use help to age your Calvados?
RR: There are many different barrels used to create Calvados; small barrels known as “Futs” containing 200−400 litres to “Foudre” holding 1000 −6000 litres to the much larger “Cuve Tronconique” that holds an excess of 2000 litres. The main reason for the use of barrels and wood ageing is to gain tannins. Tannins are necessary for structure and colour and through the reaction of the alcohol and wood combined with oxidation, aromas are formed. These aromas are typical of fruits, caramels, coffee, vanilla and so on, dependent on the type of wood chosen.
ECB: What food is Calvados best paired with?
RR: Calvados can be paired with a variety of different dishes and desserts – everything from red and white meats to oysters and seafood. Calvados is also used to enhance butter, cheeses, fruits, nuts, creams and flambéed desserts.
ECB: Would it be considered sacrilege if I shake it up into a cocktail?
RR: Normandy has a great and long tradition of cocktails. Calvados is relatively unknown in the international cocktail world but is fast becoming a new ingredient for bartenders who aim for innovative and different recipes. The idea is to replace spirits like vodka with non-aged Calvados, while aged Calvados is more in line with cognacs or rum like spirits.
ECB: How have South Africans taken to Calvados, compared to other countries?
RR: Calvados is a spirit that is growing internationally but is not as well-known as other spirits. It is a similar situation in South Africa; the idea would be to create a culture that knows, understands and enjoys the world of Calvados. It is a product that is of great quality and flavour and will undoubtedly gain traction.
The Calvados Selection, Calvados Hors d’Age, Calvados VSOP and Pomme Prisonniere (the apple fruit is grown inside the decanter- which is fitted by an arboriculturist onto the fruit-tree shortly after blossoming), will be featured at the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show in Jo’burg.
Tickets are available pre-show through www.wineshow.co.za for R140 or at the door (R160) and include a crystal tasting glass, all tastings, access to the Wine Extra Theatre and a map to help navigate the show.
Dates: Thursday 7th May – Saturday 9th May 2015
16h00 – 21h00 (Thursday & Friday)
12h00 – 21h00 (Saturday)
Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg
Don’t Drink & Drive: Earn free rides worth R150 from @Uber & #JoziStyle at www.uber.com/invite/uberjozistyle.