At dawn, in the Pays d'Auge region, not far from the orchards
Discover Calvados → Appellations

The Calvados Trio with their
Terroirs & Appellations

There are three AOCs for Calvados that share import­ant sim­il­ar­it­ies but also some sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences in their typ­ic­al character.

The Normandy terroirs

In Normandy and a few neighbouring departments, the terroir has always benefited from an oceanic climate and a type of soil that is ideal for orchards.

Two perry pears from the orchards of the Domfront region
Juicy cider pears © J. Boisard

Formerly divided into “Appel­la­tions d’Ori­gine Régle­mentée”, there are now three Appel­la­tions d’Origine Con­trôlée (AOC) for Calvados.

The orch­ards used for its pro­duc­tion extend over 8,000 hec­tares and includes 230 vari­et­ies of cider apples and 139 vari­et­ies of perry pears selec­ted for their high poly­phen­ol con­tent and agro­nom­ic qualities.

Three appel­la­tion areas have been demarc­ated by the Insti­tut Nation­al des Appel­la­tions d’Ori­gine (INAO). All the oper­a­tions involved in the pro­duc­tion of the spirit must be car­ried out within each of these geo­graph­ic­al areas: har­vest­ing of the apples and pears, cider and perry making and dis­til­la­tion, and the ageing of the eau-de-vies. A series of ana­lyt­ic­al and organ­o­leptic con­trols accom­pany the dif­fer­ent stages of the pro­duc­tion of the three Calvados appellations.

In each appellation area, the apple orchards grow at least 70% of what are known as "phenolic" varieties, commonly categorised as bitter and bittersweet apples.

The Calvados AOC

The appellation area for Calvados covers a large part of Lower Normandy and a fraction of the neighbouring departments: Eure, Seine-Maritime, Mayenne, Sarthe and Oise.

A typical Normandy
In the orchards © J. Boisard

This area has an ocean­ic-type cli­mate char­ac­ter­ised by fairly small vari­ations in tem­per­at­ure and abund­ant and reg­u­lar rainfall.

The apple and pear orch­ards can be grown as high or low stem orchards

High stem: the orch­ards have a max­im­um dens­ity of 280 trees per hec­tare with a min­im­um spa­cing of 5 metres between trees. The max­im­um aver­age yield of these orch­ards is 25 tonnes per hectare.

Low stem: the orch­ards have a dens­ity of more than 280 trees per hec­tare and less than or equal to 1,000 trees per hec­tare with an aver­age yield of 35 tonnes per hectare.

At least 35% of the fruit used to make Calvados comes from high stem orchards. 

There is no man­dat­ory method of dis­til­la­tion for Calvados, but it is mainly pro­duced by column still (con­tinu­ous distillation).

Calvados is aged for at least two years in oak barrels before being released for sale.

The Calvados Pays d’Auge AOC

The Calvados Pays d’Auge appellation area extends over the eastern part of the Calvados department and also includes a few neighbouring communes in the Orne and Eure departments.

Close-up of a pot still from a Pays d'Auge distillery

The most common soils are shal­low clay-lime­stone lying on slopes and the ocean­ic cli­mate main­tains a low range of temperatures.

At least 45% of the fruit used to make the Calvados comes from high stem orchards.

The ciders for dis­til­la­tion con­tain a max­im­um of 30% perry pears. The use of a pot still is mandatory.

The use of a pot still is mandatory for the Calvados Pays d'Auge.

The Calvados Domfrontais AOC

The Domfrontais region is situated in the southern part of the Normandy bocage and extends over communes mainly in the Manche, Orne and Mayenne departments.

Three hundred year old pear tree from the Domfront region
Sous les poiriers © J. Boisard

The Dom­fron­tais region is situ­ated in the south­ern part of the Normandy bocage and extends over com­munes mainly in the Manche, Orne and May­enne depart­ments. The main fea­ture of this region is the high pro­por­tion of perry pear trees grown in high stem orch­ards. These trees that are open to the wind can grow to a con­sid­er­able size (15m in height) and they give this region an iden­tity unlike any other in France.

The cli­mate in this area is ocean­ic, char­ac­ter­ised by fairly low vari­ations in tem­per­at­ure and mainly west­erly winds.

High stem trees rep­res­ent at least 80% of the orchard’s planted area and the pro­por­tion of pear trees planted must be great­er than or equal to 25% of the total area of the orch­ards on the farm.

The high stem orch­ards have less than 250 apple trees per hec­tare, less than 150 pear trees per hec­tare and a min­im­um spa­cing of 6 metres between the trees. The max­im­um aver­age yield is 25 tonnes per hectare.

Low stem orch­ards have less than 1,000 trees per hec­tare with an aver­age yield of 30 tonnes per hectare.

Calvados Dom­fron­tais is obtained by a simple con­tinu­ous dis­til­la­tion using a column still. It is aged for at least three years in oak bar­rels before being released for sale.

At least 30% perry pears are used to make the ciders for distillation.
Calvados appellations
Map of the 3 Calvados appellations
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Understanding the label

Understanding the label
Aging and meticulousness in the cellars of Calvados

How many apples does it take to make one litre of Calvados?

It is estim­ated that about 18kg of apples are needed to obtain 13 litres of cider at 5% vol. ready for dis­til­la­tion into Calvados. These 13 litres will pro­duce 1 litre of Calvados at 70%, i.e. before its ageing and reduction.

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