The harvest of apples starts around the beginning of October and continues through to nearly Christmas since apples, unlike grapes ripen at different times and are also harvested at different stages of ripeness. Indeed one producer uses fallen apples which have a greater sugar and reduced water content thus making a sweeter cidre.
The apples and pears are defined cider varieties and must be grown in the appellation zone. The amount of pears used varies between the areas but cannot exceed on third unless the calvados comes from Domfrontais. Perhaps the most important area of control is the style of orchard and the quantity of apples allowed to be used. Two types are common: 1 “Haut-tige” (high stem or high branch) planted pasture style 10 metres apart and with a density of 70 – 180 trees per hectare (40 trees minimum for pears). The yield should not exceed 20 tonnes of apples per hectare and the first harvest must wait untilo the seventh year from planting. 2 “Basse–tige” (low stem or low branch). This is the tighter modern planting style with a density of 400 – 750 trees per hectare and the harvest must wait until the third year of planting, the output from these trees is around 40 tonnes per ha. The quality, transportation and storage are all regulated by authorities. The traditional high stem trees are at their best around 18 years from planting whilst the low stem trees take only about 8 years to be at full maturity.
Most producers will use a range of bitter and bittersweet apples and the flavours can influence the calvados although the pears will affect the flavour in the first 10 years providing a pear drop effect on the palate but which gradually decreases as the calvados matures developing a richer and deeper quality and thus masking the pungent pear aroma and taste.