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The history of calvados – Introduction

Throughout history apples have been closely related to Normandy, the large section of coast facing north across the English Chanel stretching from Cherbourg in the west to Rouen in the east and encompassing five departments, Manche, Calvados, Orne, Eure and Seine Maritime covering thousands of square kilometres. Of course the area is famous for its coast and the pastures and farmlands like the Bocage with its gentle hills and hedgerows. The coastal Cliffs of Etretat and further along towards the peninsulas of Manche and Cotentin are of course the famous areas of the D Day landings, where the sea has carved out small coves among the granite cliffs. Gigantic tides sometimes reaching several metres high give way to wonderful sea foods and in particular oysters.

The soil unlike that of the Cognacaise is rich and fertile, the humid climate and rainfall is relatively predictable. It is a land of food in particular cheese, cream and butter and is sometimes referred to as the Paris Larder. It is the land of the Camembert, the famous soft cheese but many other rich foods such as meats and fruits are grown in abundance and shipped throughout the world from the ports along the coast such as Le Havre, Cherbourg and some of the smaller ports Deauville, Honfleur and Caen. But of course it is the cidres and the distilled Cidre of Calvados that the region is most famous for that is produced from the many varieties of apples and pears grown in the orchards seen along the roads as you drive south from the ports.

The department of Calvados is situated in the middle of Normandy and includes the towns of Cambremer, Lisieux, Livarot and Pont l’Eveque. The green hills and valleys of the main Calvados region, the Pays d’Auge is the finest region for what many Normans will call the healthiest of the French brandies for no other reason than it is made from apples, deemed healthy by the Normans who have lived off the land and its rich pickings for centuries. It is a land of history with the footprints of great names such as William the Conqueror, Joan of Arc, Monet and Marcel Proust. It is the land of the Normans, perhaps the most closely related to the English and where many of our ancestors have crossed the Channel and set up over the centuries.  Over the coming months we will explore the land, the history and product.