My favorite travel show is Rick Steve’s Europe. These 30 minute mini vacations are a daily joy for me. To see places I’d like to go to some day, or re-live places I’ve been to and maybe see something I missed and would like to see if I ever et to go back, just makes me happy.
In these programs usually Rick meets up with somebody, a “local tour guide and co-author of one of Ricks guide books”, who show us around where ever we are and usually they eat, lunch, diner or both. While dining, they discuss the local foods that make that place special. It’s always good!
A recent show was about Normandy France. I’ve never been, but really want to go. During the show it was hard not to see that almost all of the booze was made from apples. They drink hard ciders lunch and diner. A particular beverage caught my attention, calvados.
Unlike its cousins Cognac and Armagnac which are distilled from grapes, Calvados is distilled from apples. Apparently Normandy grows a lot of apples. Which is good because it takes about 17 pounds of apples to make one bottle of Calvados. And not just any apple will do, nope, Clos Renaux, Petit Jaune, Ronge Buret and about 115 others can be used. Like Champagne, Calvados can only be made in Normandy.
Calvados have four flavor ranges like Sherry, sweet, bittersweet, bitter and acidic. Don’t ask because I didn’t try them all. Just be thankful it wasn’t Great, Good, Poor and God awful!
The history of Calvados goes back to the days of Charlemagne. First known distiller was Gilles Picot, Lord de Gouberville in 1553. What a story I’d have if that name was Picard and not Picot. And in typical European fashion they had a union 50 years later. Also, in good European tradition taxation factored into the location of Normandy, they didn’t enforced the taxes, SURPRISE! By the time the French Revolution rolled around vie de cider was being called just calvados. The age of phylloxera was the golden age of calvados. 1942 calvados got a protected name.
The thing I love about this beverage is the traditions that have grown around it. One is called “trou Normand” Norman Hole, it’s a tradition when eating a meal to take a shot of Calvados supposedly to create a hole in the stomach, temporarily halting digestion and allowing for more food to be eaten. You would think this is an old French Tradition. Nope! It’s Canadian, and its from WWII when Calvados became the regimental drink of the Royal Canadian Hussars, Le Regiment de Hull and Le Regimrnt do Maisonneuve. These units passed through Normandy after D-Day and the rest is history.
The most famous distilleries for Calvados are in Pays d’Aude. which is where ours comes from. Berneroy XO, is double distilled and aged in oak for two years. Color is coppery yellow, floral apples and vanilla on the nose. Tastes of apple and oak. Much lighter than the cognacs I’ve tired. Long finish. I drink it in a snifter usually on cold rainy afternoons. I’m told it’s dynamite with a sharp cheese.
What can I say, sampling calvados might not change your life, but it might make that life ever so mush more enjoyable. Its enlarged mine.
May neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
Angles protect you,
And heaven accept you!