I’m parked up in the Aire de Cambremer surrounded by apple trees. The village is in the heart of cider country and it seems a shame not to try some of the local produce. A short walk up the road is the Manor of Pierre Huet, where they have been producing calvados for 5 generations.
As I walk through the door my nostrils are assaulted by the smell of fermenting apples. Hardly, surprising as this is the first step in the process and it lasts up to 6 months. In a display area are the traditional copper stills used to distil the apple juice twice before it is aged in oak barrels for at least 2 years. The result is a strong, rich, amber spirit which is exactly what I need to warm me up on this damp, drizzly day.
Pierre (not the original one) is waiting for me in the tasting area where he shows me a dazzling array of Calvados bottles of various ages. I’m paying more attention to the prices, which go up to €800. We discuss the merits of the aging process and he asks me which I would like to try. I’m tempted to choose the most expensive but, quite frankly, it would be wasted on me. I decide to let him choose. While I savour the powerful punch of the alcohol, Pierre tells me about Le Trou Normand, which means ‘Norman hole’. Apparently, half way through a big Norman meal, the eating stops and the diners drink a glass of calvados, to aid digestion and open up space for the next course. As I haven’t even started eating yet I decline the offer to try some more.
I ask whether the apples are good for eating, but Pierre tells me that the small local varieties are too bitter and this is why they are used for calvados. In the end, I leave without the calvados or the apples, but I do take a leaflet with recipes and cocktails.