Last updated: August 10, 2021

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The amber-coloured apple brandy Calvados owes its name to the Département Calvados in Normandy. Only if the Calvados comes from one of 11 defined growing regions is it allowed to bear this protected name. In France, Calvados is mainly drunk between the different courses during the meal. This is supposed to "clear up" the stomach.

But this brandy is also becoming increasingly popular in Germany. Especially in cooking, it is often used to refine sauces. So that you don't lose track of the many different types of Calvados, we have presented a few selected varieties here. This will make it easier for you to find the right Calvados for your purposes.




The most important facts

  • Calvados is an apple brandy with a protected name of origin. Only if the entire production process has taken place in one of 11 growing regions is the spirit allowed to call itself that.
  • There are three different varieties, which differ in their production area. Calvados, Calvados Pays d'Auge and Calvados Domfrontais.
  • The taste is mainly influenced by the length of maturation. This usually starts at two years, but can also be six years or more. The longer the maturation, the more aromatic the Calvados.

The Best Calvados: Our Picks

In this section, we have taken a closer look at some selected Calvados for you. On the basis of the respective characteristics, we have prepared a description as well as a recommendation to support you in your choice.

Buying and evaluation criteria for Calvados

So that you know the most important buying and evaluation criteria for Calvados, we have described them in more detail for you. This should give you the best possible overview and help you to find the right Calvados for you. These criteria include:

Below you will find these explained in more detail, so you can form a better opinion and make an informed decision.

Maturity

The degree of maturity determines the age of the respective Calvados. There are some differences between the various degrees of maturity. A distinction is made between the following categories:

  • Fine: at least two years old
  • V.S.O.P (very superior old pale): at least four years old
  • X.O. (extra old): at least six years old
  • Hor's d'age: equivalent to X.O., at least six years old

Depending on the chosen degree of maturity, the taste, the colour and of course the price of the Calvados varies. However, the age is not synonymous with the quality of the apple brandy, so it does not necessarily have to be a six-year-old variety. Which calvados suits you best depends entirely on your taste.

Maturation time

The maturation time is very similar to the degree of maturity, but describes the pure time that the Calvados has matured in its container after the production process is completely finished. Depending on the variety, this maturing time can be two years, but can also be ten years.

Type of storage

When storing the spirit, producers rely almost exclusively on large barrels. These are usually made of oak or chestnut. Stored in these barrels, Calvados acquires its unmistakable taste. The colour of the drink also changes more and more as it ages.

Taste

The taste of Calvados is mainly influenced by the respective proportions of Calvados apples used in its production. Depending on the amount of sweet, sour and bitter apples, the typical fruity note of Calvados results. However, the apple brandy often also contains other fruit nuances.

Overall, the taste is usually described as woody and subtly spicy. Some bottlings, on the other hand, are considered dry and sweetish. In addition, you will often notice a nutty aftertaste if you try different types of Calvados.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about Calvados answered in detail

To help you decide which type of Calvados is best suited to your needs, we have compiled the most important questions about apple brandy. After reading this guide, you should be sufficiently informed to make your purchase decision.

What is Calvados?

Calvados is an amber-coloured apple brandy from Normandy. Calvados can only use the protected designation of origin if it comes from this region. In total, there are eleven approved growing regions in Normandy for the Calvados apples used in its production.

The alcohol content is usually between 40 and 45 %. Due to its pleasant apple flavour, Calvados is often used in cocktails, but can also be enjoyed neat, or on ice.

What types of Calvados are there?

There are three different types of Calvados. Firstly, Calvados, then Calvados Pays d'Auge and Calvados Domfrontais.

Calvados

Calvados is stored in these oak barrels. Depending on the duration of this maturing process, the taste and colour also change. (Image source: Sergey Nemo/ Pixabay)

The production areas of these three varieties are defined by the INAO (Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité). The production area has hardly any influence on the taste. In fact, the only difference between the three types is the area in which the production process took place.

What makes a good Calvados?

The characteristics that make a good calvados are largely related to the personal preferences of the consumer. Just because a calvados has the highest degree of maturity doesn't necessarily make it the best choice for you. However, you can make a shortlist based on the degree of maturity.

A good calvados has been aged in oak barrels and has a smooth, delicate flavour. You can often taste the proportion of Calvados apples used in its production. In addition, a good Calvados should be at least two years old. If you choose a well-known producer, you should be able to find the right calvados for you quickly.

What kind of Calvados is suitable for me?

If you like the taste of Calvados, then you should choose a Calvados that has been matured for a longer period of time. The maturing process brings out the typical flavour of the apple brandy much better than with the less matured varieties.

The apple flavour comes out more and more aromatically with increasing maturity. Such a calvados is therefore best suited for drinking.

Calvados is also often used in the kitchen, for example to refine sauces. For this purpose, it does not have to be the most expensive Calvados on the market. Since it's all about the characteristic taste of Calvados, even a two-year-old Calvados is excellent for this refinement of the dish.

How much does Calvados cost?

The price of Calvados is largely determined by the length of the maturation process. The older the apple brandy is, the more expensive the end product usually is. The following table should give you a better overview of the different price categories:

Price category Available products
Low-priced (13-20€) Mostly matured for two years, less aromatic
Medium-priced (20-40€) Longer maturation between 3 and 5 years, finer aroma
High-priced (40€ and more) Matured for at least six years, distinct flavour

As you can see, Calvados can be purchased for less than 20 €. Should you develop into a lover of apple brandy, there are, of course, also longer-aged varieties that cost correspondingly more, but have a finer taste.

What does Calvados taste like?

The taste depends above all on the proportion of Calvados apples chosen. Depending on how large the proportion of sweet, sour or bitter apples is, this also influences the taste. Mostly, the taste is strongly influenced by this apple note, but other fruit notes can also be tasted.

Another influencing factor is the length of storage. The longer the Calvados has been stored, the finer and more aromatic its flavour becomes. This typical aroma is what makes Calvados so popular.

Conclusion

Calvados apple brandy is characterised by its typical apple flavour. That is why it is often used in cocktails, but it can also be enjoyed neat. When choosing the right Calvados, the most important thing is the length of the maturation process. The longer the maturation process, the finer the characteristic aroma of this brandy.

However, Calvados can also be used to give sauces the finishing touch. A less expensive variety is also suitable for this. In the end, your personal taste plays the biggest role in the purchase decision. Therefore, it is a good idea to participate in a tasting before making a choice.

(Cover photo: Eva Elijas/ Pexels)

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