Three appellation areas have been drawn by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO).

All operations involved in making the eaux-de-vie have to be carried out within each of these geographical areas: apple and pear harvest, the manufacture, the distillation of the ciders and ageing of the brandies.
In each area, the identified orchards comprise at least 20% of local varieties of apple trees, 70% of bitter or bitter-sweet varieties and no more than 15% of sour varieties.
A procedure of controls accompanies the various stages of the manufacturing.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
« Calvados Pays d'Auge »

It is produced in the geographical area of the Pays d'Auge on slopes of shallow clayey-calcareous soil (in the Calvados département but also including a few borderland communes in the Orne and Eure).

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
« Calvados »

Its area covers a large section of Lower Normandy, a smallest one in Upper Normandy and a few borderland communes in the Mayenne, Sarthe and Oise.

AOC Calvados follows no compulsory distillation method but is mostly produced with a column still (single distillation). It aged for at least two years in oak casks before being marketed.

Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
« Calvados Domfrontais »

The apples and pears used are grown on the wetter granite soils of the Domfront area which includes communes mostly in the Orne but also a few in the Manche and Mayenne.

From harvest to cider : A paradise of 7 million trees

The Norman cider apple orchard today has two different looks:

Standard trees

The traditional meadow planted out, with cows grazing under standard apple trees, is typical of the Normandy countryside. The trees are planted at maximum 250 per hectare for a maximum average yield of 25 metric tons of cider apples.


The more modern shape of the specialist orchard devoted exclusively to fruit production (cordon orchard).
Keeping the grass down is no longer done by livestock, but mechanically: the grass is regularly crushed to form a lawn to break the apples' fall.
The trees are planted closer together, about 600 per hectare for an average yield of 20 metric tons of cider apples.

Altogether we are talking about an orchard of over 7 million trees.

Calvados Distillation

Cider is turned into Calvados by the distillation process whereby the alcohol is separated from the water: when the cider is heated, having a lower boiling point than water, the alcohol it contains is boiled off first.
The still is the instrument used to collect this alcohol-charged vapour and condense it in order to obtain a brandy in which are found the volatile substances making up the main elements of the bouquet.

Ageing Calvados

Before it can be called Calvados, the apple-brandy has to be analyzed and its organoleptic qualities acknowledged by an INAO inspection board. Depending on the appellation, the Calvados cannot be put on sale before a minimum 2 or 3 years of barrel ageing. So it has to be matured and its alcohol level brought down to the standard consumption strength (minimum 40% by vol.).
Certain types of Calvados delight the angels over many years. In contact with the air, their alcoholic strength and volume gradually decreases as some of the alcohol evaporates (this is known as the "angels' share").

The Calvados ages in very dry oak casks, the contact with the wood passes on the elements needed to bring it to perfect completion. The tannic material in the wood gives it its natural colour and through the ongoing exchanges between the young brandy, the wood and the surrounding air, the Calvados acquires its subtlety and plenitude.

Blending, the work of a master craftsman

The chief cellarman's work is more than just leaving the Calvados to age. Like an alchemist, he is skilled in blending brandies of various ages, from different crops or areas, in order to combine the complementary qualities of each.
Blending is a delicate operation that chiefly involves tasting and calls for great skill in striking a balance between woodiness and fruitiness.
Before bottling, these blends need to be brought to perfection over a period of many months during which the different bouquets will combine and enrich each other.