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Monday, December 14, 2009

Popularize Calvados Today!

While working at Food Matters in Alexandria I have learned many things.  The biggest thing I've retained from working there, however, is getting excited for products as they come into season.  The same way many folks consume more white wine and rose during the spring and summer in contrast to the reds during winter and fall seasons, I believe the same should go with all things in the spirit world.  The rediscovery of a drink that has been around as far back as the 8th century I look at a bottle of Calvados and wonder, why on earth is this fine French brandy not more popular?  Especially right now in the season of citrus!

Calvados, a region in France created after the French Revolution, received it's government protected name in 1942.  Government regulations require that Calvados be made from a wide variety of cider specific apples and pears.  Some distillers use up to 100 different types of apples when making Calvados, usually varieties that are unedible and bitter but still use apples that are tart and sweet as well.  Regulations also usually call for up to 30% of the blends to be pears as pear orchids were originally littered over the region of Calvados, particularly in the region of Domfrontais.  After hand picking apples and fermenting them for six weeks into a dry cider, Calvados is required a minimum two to three year aging process in oak barrels though some are aged as long as 20 years or higher.  The longer a Calvados ages, the smoother and more complex the final spirit will be.

Grades of Calvados are similare to the grading procedures of Cognac, the famous French grape brandies of named region, with Fine being the youngest (Again, 2 year minimum), Reserve being 3 years old, VSOP going 4 years and Napolean or X.O. going for as long as 6 years and typically much longer.

As of right now I have had two types of Calvados.

Daron Fine Calvados:

Honey in color, young and heavy on the acid with a hot slightly harsh finish, the nose is of gold pears and red delicious apples. Finish lingers of subtle smoke and caramel.

Busnel VSOP Calvados:

In just a two year difference the Calvados shows a much richer amber color with heavier legs.  The nose expands greatly with toffee, caramel, cinnamon, clove and hot cider.  Candy Apples!  The Calvados show cases strong red pear and McIntosh flavors predominantly backed by lemons, brown sugar and caramel.  Further inspection I've found a subtle hint of menthol, milk chocolate, almonds and hazelnuts.  A very pleasant, smooth and lingering finish.

Enjoy Calvados in a snifter or tasting glass at room temperature or slightly warmed.  To warm a Calvados you will need to have two snifters.  Fill one almost half way with near boiling water and balance the second glass with 2 1/2 ounces of Calvados and slightly rotate glass for a few minutes.  If you have a warm sake vessel you can boil it in a pot that way as well.  The ethanol will rise to the top of your glass when Calvados is heated so don't stick your nose deep into the snifter unless you plan to burn a nose hair or two!

Calvados is a fantastic substitute during autumn and winter seasons as an after dinner drink.  Fine Calvados makes an excellent substitute to Cognac when making side cars or adding some to hot cider for a fantastic cold evening beverage.

Cognacs, California Brandies and even Pisco's have a strong following and it continues to boggle me that something that is as seasonal and delicious as Calvados is not getting the proper recognition it deserves.  You can find bottles of Calvados at local ABC stores, order online or in family owned restaurants (We serve the Busnel VSOP at Food Matters, Alexandria, VA) find a bottle and enjoy with friends and family this holiday season.  Merry Christmas and of course,


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