I'm thinking that the book and several bottles might make a well appreciated holiday gift.
Calvados in particular can defy our expectations of brandy. Because it’s distilled from cider rather than from wine, it’s more rustic by nature than Cognac or Armagnac. Certainly it is by reputation. Serving Calvados in a white-wine glass might signal an intent to regard brandy from a different critical stance.
“I think once people realize that they can approach these spirits as if they were wine — with more intelligence and attention to nuance — their experience will be greatly heightened,” said Charles Neal, who imports wine and spirits and whose “Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy” was just published by Flame Grape Press. For one thing, as the book persuasively asserts, Calvados has terroir. From region to region, sometimes village to village, the soil, fruit and customs can differ completely.
“Calvados” is an astounding 700-page stroll through the history and culture of Normandy and Calvados producers, through orchards and cellars, down to seemingly esoteric details, like what a producer might have scribbled in chalk on a typical barrel.
Mr. Neal looks at the multitude of different apples, from sweet to acidic, that might go into a producer’s blend. Many people will be surprised to learn that pears, too, can be part of the formula, particularly for those brandies with the appellation Calvados Domfrontais, where the rules require at least 30 percent of the fruit to be pears.