A paradise of 7 million trees
The Norman cider apple orchard today has two different looks:
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 35 metric tons of cider apples.
Altogether we are talking about an orchard of over 7 million trees.
Did you know?
The standard apple tree first produces apples after about 10 years and reaches full production at 15 years. It can live for over 70 years.
The cordon apple tree starts producing apples after about 4 years. It is in full production at around 8 years and lives for about thirty years.
The harvest season lasts from early October till late November. Cider apples come in four classes, "bitter ", "bitter -sweet", "sweet" and "tart", these varieties being blended together to build up a balanced cider and later a harmonious Calvados. Calvados is never made from just one variety.
From this apple which will have grown and ripened in the appellation area, the juice is extracted and once it has completely fermented in a completely natural process, becomes cider for distilling.
Fermentation must be carried out slowly (a minimum of 21 days for AOC Calvados and Calvados Pays d'Auge and thirty days for Calvados Domfrontais).
The most stringent selection process is necessary: the cider to be distilled must have an alcohol content of at least 4.5% at 20°c with no added sugar.
The distillation campaign starts on July 1st in one year and finishes on June 30th of the following year. Distillation generally takes place in spring and autumn, according to traditional processes carefully codified in a stringent set of regulations.
Did you know?
18 kg of cider apples are needed to make 13 litres of cider at 5% alcohol by volume, used to make 1 litre of Calvados at 70% alcohol by volume.