How Calvados is made
The first stage is to make cider for calvados making, which is known as “cidre de chauffe” – cider intended only for distillation. According to the AOC regulations, there are then either one or two distillations.
Cider for calvados making
The choice of cider apple varieties used for calvados is important, otherwise you can end up with an alcoholic drink that is too sweet. This is why the mix includes apples that are sweet, bitter-sweet, bitter and acidic.
However, Calvados Domfrontais AOC, must be distilled from a cider made with apples from the area around Domfront and at least 30% perry pears.
The fruit is hand picked and pressed to obtain the wort, which is then fermented. After six weeks, this has turned into cider.
This stage consists of separating the alcohol and water, which boil at different temperatures, using a column or pot still. The alcohol vapour is then liquefied to give a high alcohol content liquid: eau-de-vie.
Two techniques are used for distillation: single and double. Calvados AOC and Calvados du Domfrontais are both made using one distillation in a column still, which makes a 72% ABV eau-de-vie straight away.
Calvados Pay d’Auge, however, requires a double distillation in a pot still. The first distillation allows the “heads” and “tails” (which contain compounds that are less useful to the final eau-de-vie) to be discarded, retaining only what is known as the “petites eaux” which are between 28% and 30% ABV. The second distillation of the “petites eaux”, known at “la bonne chauffe”, produces a 72% ABV eau-de-vie.