A Calvados Masterclass with Chateau du Breuil
Whenever I receive an invitation from Maison Vauron, I accept... Instantly! So when an email arrived, announcing a Masterclass on Calvados to be presented by the GM of Château de Breuil, Didier Bedu, there was no hesitation in responding.
Maison Vauron in Newmarket, Auckland, is an importer, distributor retailer and all-round specialist in all things good from France but specifically, wine and cheese. And they entertain with style. If you're in Auckland, pay them a visit and if you're not you can always visit their website (www.mvauron.co.nz)
NOTE: Please excuse the poor quality of the images accompanying this article. I didn't have proper lighting with me and so resorted to long, hand-held exposures. Some movement and blurring resulted. I'm learning!
The Appellations of Calvados
Calvados is an apple brandy from Normandy in the north-west of France. The region lies on the English Channel coast. Within the greater Aire AOC Calvados are two smaller appellations, Aire AOC Calvados Domfrontais, around the town of Domfront and Aire AOC Calvados Pays d'Auge in the valley surrounding Lisieux.
The climate is mild and rather damp and although the soils are predominantly clay, the region's economy is primarily based on agriculture and tourism with cattle breeding and dairy alongside apple growing and cider production.
Calvados is distilled cider and the three appellations each have slightly differing rules that have significant effects on the resulting brandy.
AOC Calvados accounts for over 70% of all calvados production. To carry AOC status, it must be aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels and of course, it can only come from within the defined terroir or geographical area. As is commonplace within AOCs, many aspects of production are regulated and a single column still is usually used.
In AOC Calvados Pay's d'Auge all the the basic rules for AOC calvados apply but in addition it must be produced within the designated Pays d'Auge area and double distillation in pot stills is required as is a minimum six-week fermentation period for the base cider.
Likewise for AOC Calvados Domfrontais, all the basic AOC Clavados regulations apply with the additional stipulations that a minimum of 30% pears from the designated area are used, the minimum period for aging is three years in oak and that the source orchards must consist of at least 15% pear trees with 25% from the 16th harvest. Distillation is by column still.
Château du Breuil
Château du Breuil is located within Pays d'Auge. The château was built during the 16th and 17th centuries and began distilling in 1954.
The property owns two orchards with around 22,000 apple trees, across 40 different varieties which provide approximately 35 - 40 percent of Château du Breuil's requirements. The balance are sources from 120 - 150 other suppliers within the Pays d'Auge appellation.
Harvest is between October and November each year and each tonne of apples yields approximately 700 litres of juice.
After fermentation, the cider reaches a strength of five - six percent alcohol by volume and distillation can begin.
The château distils cider seven days per week for about seven months of the year. Primary distillation is in a 25 hectolitre pot still which produces spirit at 28 - 32 percent alcohol. From the secondary distillation, only 'le coeur' (the heart) of the distillate is retained at 70 - 72 percent alcohol by volume while the balance known as 'le second' goes back into the primary still for re-distillation.
Maturation of the spirit is in 100 percent French oak, sourced largely from Limousin and Tronçais forests. The casks are mainly small volume of 300-400 litres. In Calvados, the age stated on the label must be the age of the youngest constituent in the blend.
Around 45 percent of Calvados is consumed within the French domestic market with exports going to some 60 countries, the largest of which, outside the European Union, is Russia.
Calvados marinated Akaroa salmon, green apple, almonds and crayfish mayonnaise.
Château du Breuil Calvados Pays d'Auge 'Fine'
Two Years Maturation
Very finely scented aroma showing floral notes, apple blossom and underlying cooked apple. The palate is light and dry. Delicate and almost 'chalky' in a manner that reminds me of Fino Sherry. Very bright and refreshing, it is an excellent aperitif. Try it as a mixed drink with tonic water.
Château du Breuil Calvados Pays d'Auge 'VSOP'
Four Years Maturation
Richer, bolder and more developed on the nose than the 'Fine'. The aromas are more earthy. The palate is less dry too, richer and more unctuous in the mouth. There is a step up in complexity of flavour but at the expense of freshness and purity.
Cider braised free-farmed pork cheeks, cauliflower and Pont l'Evêque velouté.
Château du Breuil Calvados Pays d'Auge 8 Years Old
Rich yet delicate on the nose with a lovely freshness. Notes of almond vanilla and hazelnut on the nose and palate as the influence of oak becomes more prominent. The palate is firm and quite tannic/phenolic. There's good acidity and real depth of flavour right through to a toasty finish. This is fantastic with the braised pork cheek.
Château du Breuil Calvados Pays d'Auge 15 Years Old
Aromas of toffee and caramel. Both nose and palate have a lovely richness with tobacco and spice characters. Again there is impressive depth of flavour and considerable oak influence. The finish is long and filled with floral and spice notes.
Camembert fermier aux ceps légèrement mariné au Calvados.
Chateau du Breuil Calvados Pays d'Auge 20 Years Old
This is truly impressive! The influence of oak on the nose is now powerful. Indeed, it reminds me of very good Speyside Single Malt. It is rich and spicy in the mouth with notes of maple and toasted tobacco. The flavours run deep in the palate and the finish is long and creamy in texture.
Mini fancier au chocolat.
Château du Breuil Pommeau de Normandie
This is a blend of Calvados and apple juice with the finished product at 17 percent alcohol by volume. It makes a pleasant drink with the mini fancier au chocolat, but is certainly less serious than the brandies. Fairly dry with good intensity of apple flavour and a warm, soothing finish.
Château du Breuil Coeur de Breuil Liqueur au Calvados
Here we have a blend of apple juice and Fine Calvados, sweetened with sugar with a resulting 24 percent alcohol by volume. This too is a less serious drink than the brandies but strikes me as something with real potential as a quality cocktail ingredient.