Doddington cheesmaker admits love of Cavados
PUBLISHED: 08:31 12 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:20 20 February 2013
Calvados is a heady, applely delight - and has at least one devoted North East fan
I love enthusiastic people. Those who excite you with their pet subjects, their favourite music, their all-consuming passions and hobbies. Its great to come across a tegestologist or a philatelist, an entomologist or an apiarist who will wax lyrical about their chosen interest.
So when Maggie Maxwell wrote to me, I was immediately engaged by her enthusiasm for her favourite food and drink destination.
Maggie is a cheesemaker, who, with her family, runs Doddington Diary at North Doddington Farm at Wooler in Northumberland. Theyve made cheese for the past 20 years and for the last ten icecreams too, and supply shops and other outlets all over the North East and further afield.
Maggie loves Normandy in northern France - not just for its great food but for its Calvados, about which she has taught me a thing or two.
Maggie wrote: For many years now some friends and I have made Honfleur our first stopping off point, the beautiful harbour town has long been a mecca for artists, yachties and tourists.
Even better it is on the tip of the fertile hinterland of the Pays dAuge, between the rivers Risle and Dives, this is the main production area for well over 70 types of Calvados and numerous farmhouse ciders - not forgetting the home of three world famous types of cheese, Camembert, Liverot and Pont LEveque, and some of the best cream and butter in the world.
Apple orchards proliferate here, says Maggie, along with picturesque cream and brown timbered manor houses with glorious cream and russet Normandy cows grazing in the apple orchards to match. She paints a lovely picture.
To begin tasting Calvados takes you very much on a voyage of discovery, although an apple brandy, when young (one to two years) it is sharp and fiery and its similarity to whisky is unmistakable. However by the time it gets to four years minimum ageing in oak casks, there is a softness and a balance in the amber nectar.
Unlike Calvados AOC appellation of origin controlee, calvados with the quality mark AOC Pays dAuge , requires cider apples to be produced in the pays dAuge area and a double distillation, this makes a finer calvados due to the quality of the apples produced by the local soil.
Reputedly, says Maggie, more than 200 varieties of apples go into the production, from very bitter to sweet.
To make one litre of calvados 100%
pure alcohol takes about 27 kilograms
In the final stages it is the skill of the cellar master and the kind, size and age of the oak casks that determine the quality of ageing. The fine relationship between wood, air and alcohol and the final blending is what gives calvados its delicious smooth flavour.
By the age of eight, calvados can have a deep richness, with flavours of almond, walnut and vanilla. By twelve to fifteen years the calvados becomes fully rounded, rich and voluptuous.
Maggie goes on: However it is in the tasting where the fun begins, just like in Scotland with the whisky trail, Normandys calvados distilleries offer various guided tours and tastings.
Call it the calvados affect, but I once nearly bought a wooden schooner in the Honfleur harbour for 400 euros. Thank goodness I didnt as the next time I visited it was sunk deep within the harbour walls!
Here you can buy calvados in most of the main supermarkets, but Fenwicks food hall stock three ages of Chateau du Breuil, which Maggie describes as smooth and classy.
An enthusiast if ever I knew one.
Tegestologist - beer mat collector; philatelist - stamp collector; entomologist - collector of insects; apiarist - bee keeper.
Doddington Diary www.doddingtondairy.co.uk