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A LITTLE HISTORY

FROM CIDER TO EAU-DE-VIE


Ciders or « sicera » in Latin – which mean « intoxicating drink” – have been known since Antiquity. Drink of the Norman Vikings who drank it with beer in the 10th century, cider became a way of life in the 15th century when appreciated by aristocrats and clergy. It is at that time that there were rumors about alcohol distillation “aqua vitae” or “eau de vie” for which the distillations were done at apothecaries and monasteries.

But the first recognized Norman distillation dates from the 16th century: a noble by birth from the Cotentin named Gilles de Gouberville, wrote about for the first time in his diary on March 28th, 1553, the distillation of cider to obtain an eau-de-vie. He speaks about the culture of cider apple trees encouraged by the arrival of new varieties from the Basque country. Shortly after, in 1606, distillers of Normandy cider eau-de-vie form a corporation.

During the 17th century, traditional cider farms develop: most of the farms produce their own cider and calvados. Stills travel across the countryside to make these distillations.


The development of Calvados

With the French Revolution, the Calvados region is created, but cider eau-de-vie, mainly a farmer’s drink, was already called “calvados” by the population. After the French Revolution, product exchange is liberalized: with the help of communication means, it’s the eau-de-vie from the production zone closest to Paris that will benefit. The “calvados” becomes popular in Paris and its name includes soon all the cider eau-de-vie from Normandy.

In the 19th century, production increases with industrial distillation. The popular classes appreciate especially the “coffee-calva”. Calvados is at its peak at the end of the 19th century, when an epidemy of phylloxera destroys the vineyards.

At the beginning of the 20th century, cider eau-de-vie gains major economic importance in Normandy. The quality is improved and controlled, thanks notably to centrifugation and filtration.

In 1942, a decree recognizes the Calvados Pays d’Auge as Certified Designation of Origin and protects it from war requisitions.

 
Designation of Regulated Origin Calvados for Calvados produced in other zones is promoted to Controlled Origin Designation on September 11, 1984 by decree and the Calvados Domfrontais achieved recognition on December 31st, 1997.