Winesday with R&R Nov. 23, 2016: Apples Are Not Just For Eating

23 November 2016
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Category: Winesday
23 November 2016, Comments: 0

Apples Are Not Just For Eating

Fruits other than grapes are the source of many different wines, spirits and even cider.

Brandy made from apples is mainly made in France and the United States, although other countries make apple cider and brandies, as well (including Canada).  In the U.S.A. the brandy is called Applejack (or apple jack).  In France the most famous is called Calvados, which is from the Calvados region in the western part of Normandy in northwestern France.  Grapes didn’t do diddly here, but other types of fruit certainly did.  Especially apples and pears.

This particular part of Normandy is known for its agricultural contribution to France.  This history of apples growing in this region dates back to the time of the Gauls (5 BC to 5 AD), but written references of apple distillate dates back much later to the mid 1500’s.  It is anybody’s guess how long prior to the 1500’s it had been going on, but there’s a pretty darn good chance that it was well before that time.

Now I’m sure that when you are thinking about apples Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Fuji and others come to mind.  However, the apples that are used to make cider and Calvados are mostly nothing like those at all.   They can be extremely astringent, almost tannic and extremely bitter.  Not exactly the picture of picking an apple from the tree in your back yard and having a munch.  Different varieties of apples have different purposes.  Some are great for having a snack, others work well for cooking and even more still are the best for making cider and Calvados.  There are hundreds of varieties of cider apples, but they all fall into one of these four groups:  sweet, bitter-sweet, bitter and acid.

How Calvados is made.

The apples are harvested from September right through until December.  The apples are then fermented into cider at about 5% to 6% alcohol.  At that point the cider is double distilled (although some areas other than the Pays dAuge use the continuous distillation method). The result is then put into French oak barrels (of various sizes) to mature to give the depth of flavour for which Calvados is known.

Like everything else, there are small producers and large producers.  If you go to the farm gate of a small producer, you will most likely find cider for sale, as well as, Calvados and possibly some Pommeau (side bar:  Pommeau is a mixture of about 2/3’s of unfermented apple juice and 1/3 of a very young Calvados.  The result is then aged in oak for about 30 months)

Wow… so we rattled on for a bit.   Ya… okay… it was not really ‘we’.  It was more like ‘me’.

On to our Calvados

Calvados Boulard has been in existence since 1825 and is still owned by the same family.  That is 5 generations already.   Vincent Boulard is the great great grandson of the founder.  He has been in our part of the world a number of times over the past several years.  He was the one who introduced us to cocktails made with Calvados.  Until that point I thought it almost sacrilegious to put other stuff in with Calvados.  He totally changed my way of thinking, however.

This week we are sampling their Grand Solage – Appelation Calvados Pays d’Auge Contrôlêe

“Produced from a blend of Calvados varieties from the Pays d’Auge aged a minimum of two years, the Boulard Grand Solage is characterized by its apple fragrance and its amber colour.”[1]

This is how the producer describes this Calvados:

The pure initial taste of the Grand Solage is followed by a fruity flavor and the vanilla taste of oak.  Perfect with a meal, it is also highly appreciated as an aperitif with tonic or on ice.

Colour:  Shiny, golden copper colour

Fragrance:  Mainly apple (so characteristic of the Pays d’Auge) with vanilla also discernible.  Well balanced.

Taste:  Smooth and fruity with an incomparable elegance and aromatic richness

Aftertaste:  Full of personality and length

This is only one of the range of the Boulard Calvados and it is a great place to start.

As with each week, we try to pass on a food recipe too.  This week it is Calvados Apple Sauce.  Oh my goodness.  When you try this with pork, chicken, turkey or just out of the bowl (just kidding… maybe) you will never make apple sauce the same way again.

For a hot drink recipe try this Mulled Cider with Calvados.  We’ll be serving this on November 23rd for Winesday.  See you then.

At this point, I would like to thank Florian Grimoin who took the time to chat about Normandy with me.   I learned so much more about this beautiful region.  It is on the list to visit for sure.


[1] Boulard Calvados website

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