When you visit Normandy, you will probably notice that in the cafés no one is drinking only a coffee. Apparently, the thing that goes perfectly with espresso is a glass of brandy. And not any kind of brandy but - Calvados. Commonly known as “calva”, this apple brandy is made exclusively in Normandy. Calvados is a very appreciated drink that is also used in the kitchen, so you can even buy and taste some incredible food like Camembert cheese, dipped for several hours in Calvados and then covered with breadcrumbs. Calvados is so popular in Normandy that in this French region exists even a 3000 square meters site, dedicated exclusively to this drink.
The first distillation of apples and pears in Normandy started back in the 16th century, and it was at that time that Gilles de Gouberville, a French diarist, mentioned Calvados for the very first time. But, Calvados became really appreciated in France, and especially in Paris, at the end of the 19th century, after the European vineyards were completely devastated during an epidemic of phylloxera. But the World War I marked the end of the “golden age” of Calvados. French authorities requisitioned all the apples to make the alcohol needed for the armament industry. It was in 1942, during the World War II and the German occupation of France, when Calvados received the “appellation d’origine controlee” (AOC), a prestigious French certificate, granted to certain French geographical indications. From that moment, Calvados was finally classified and protected by French law.
How is actually Calvados made? Firstly, the apples need to ferment into a mild alcoholic apple wine. After the distillation, the level of alcohol will rise, and the brandy will be put into oak barrels for several months and even years, which will give it an amber color. The older Calvados is, the smoother the drinking is. To fight against excessive use of alcohol, the French authorities decided to reduce the degree of alcohol in Calvados. Today, this brandy contains only from 40° to 45° of pure alcohol. It can be served as an aperitif, but also after the meal as a digestive or even with coffee. It goes perfectly with cheese but also with chocolate or even ice cream. In Normandy, locals will often use Calvados when preparing apple pies, pancakes or even when cooking shrimps or meat.
Calvados, an apple brandy made in Normandy, is such an important thing in this part of France that they even opened a visitor center dedicated to this drink. Situated at the picturesque market in Pont- l’Evêque, the Calvados Experience is a 3000 square meters place where you can learn everything about Calvados, during a one-hour visit. This is a great experience for the entire family. After your visit, you can even taste some Calvados, and your children can enjoy their organic apple juice.
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