The History of Calvados

Over 400 years of history

Distillation In the early 16th century, growing cider apple trees received a boost with the arrival of new varieties from the Basque Country. A gentleman of the Cotentin area, an Officer of National Forestry Commission called Gilles de Gouberville, was especially interested in tending his orchards which contained over 40 different varieties of apple trees no less, and on March 28, 1553 he noted for the first time in his diary the distillation of cider I order to obtain a drinkable brandy. This is the first occurrence of apple-brandy in an official piece of writing.
Not long after this, the apple-brandy distillers of Normandy set up as a guild, in 1606.

A legend is born...

In 1790, the Constituent Assembly set up the departments of France and named the Calvados after a rock located off Arromanches. Legend has it that this rock itself was called after a Spanish galleon with the Invincible Armada, the "San Salvador" or "El Salvador", which sank as it sailed up towards the coast of England in 1588. The ship's name possibly then shifted to "Calvador" and later "Calvados".

While no archive reporting this shipwreck has been found, some old sea charts mention two "calva dorsa", bald backs in Latin, corresponding to two strips of bare land on the clifftops between Port-en-Bessin and Arromanches. Navigators would take their bearings from these "calva dorsa" the words being contracted to "Calvados".


Following the French Revolution, barter was liberalized: with improved communications, this was a boost for brandy from the production area closest to Paris. The brandy from the department of Calvados, soon itself named "Calvados", became popular in the capital and the name soon became a generic term for any apple-brandy from Normandy.

The First World War brought a huge demand for spirits. The business of State spirits intended for the weapons industry put quantity first and quality a poor second and
 the apple-brandy producers were roped in to help.
So, to avoid requisition during the Second World War, the producers then decided to claim appellation contrôlée status.

It was not until February 23, 1942 that an official order recognized Calvados Pays d'Auge as an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée and the Calvados produced in the other areas as an Appellation d'Origine Réglementée.



Cider production was revived in the 1980s. Initiated by the Regional Council, with ONIVINS later taking over, the reorganization of the orchards of Normandy now involved the plantation of orchards with cordon trees, with the emphasis on intensive fruit crops better suited to the constraints and requirements of modern agriculture.

Appellation d'Origine Réglementée Calvados was promoted to Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in 1984 by official decree, and Domfrontais Calvados was similarly honoured on December 31, 1997

New specifications setting out the conditions for production of the appellations d'origine contrôlées have been approved on 7 January 2015 by Decree N° 2015-12 for "Calvados Domfrontais", on 6 February 2015 by Decree n° 2015-133 for "Calvados" and  by Decree n° 2015-134 for "Calvados Pays d'Auge".

Today, the character of Calvados is expressed in 3 distinctive types, due at once to the soil, the fruit used and the distillation method.


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Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse
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L' Idac

Interprofession Des Appellations Cidricoles, Producteurs de Calvados, Calvados Pays d’Auge, Calvados Domfrontais, Pommeau de Normandie, Pommeau de Bretagne, Pommeau du Maine, Cidre Pays d’Auge, Cidre Cornouaille, Poiré Domfront.