Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Thursday, December 29, 2011 / 3:40 PM

The Cider House Rules: Joe Pollack Distills the 768 Page "Calvados"

If there's anything you want to know about Calvados, the French apple brandy named  for the district in Normandy where the apples grow and the brandy is distilled, do I have the book for you. It's called, simply, "Calvados," and for more than 750 pages, it explores the history and geography of the delicious drink in sturdy, workmanlike prose by Charles Neal, a San Francisco-based wine importer and writer who spent 11 years on the project.

With maps, photographs, charts and glossaries, plus interviews with some 200 producers of all sizes, Neal has produced an encyclopedia that usually is interesting reading as well. True Calvados comes from the Calvados region of Normandy, the site of the bulk of the D-day fighting in 1944, and is made from apples, often with some local pears in the mix. The difference between Calvados and true brandy is that Calvados is distilled from apple-and-pear cider while brandy is distilled from wine made from grapes. A geographical distinction also can be made -- by French law, Champagne comes from the district of that name, as Calvados comes from a specific district in Normandy.

Neal carefully details the drink's history, discussing techniques of growing apples and of producing the spirit, from harvest to bottle. As at wineries in other parts of France, Calvados producers range from individuals farmers who own trees and do their own distilling and blending, to co-ops of several producers in the region, to negociants who buy, distill, blend and sell Calvados to bottlers and distributors, and industrial producers who may grow trees but also buy fruit, raw juice and distilled spirits, becoming major manufacturers and sellers.

A fascinating book about a legendary drink, a favorite of mine for many years, and just right for enjoying together on a cold winter night.

Calvados, by Charles Neal. Flame Grape Press, San Francisco. 768 pages including indices. $60.

When posting, please be respectful. Avoid profanity, offensive content, and/or sales pitches. reserves the right to remove any comments or to contact you if necessary.

Add your comment:
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed

Restaurant Guide

Search from more than 1,500 St. Louis restaurants


Subscribe to Relish posts in your favorite feed reader.



Recent Articles



Attorney Profiles

Attorney Profiles

Click here to view 2014 attorney profiles

2014 Wedding Guide

2014 Wedding Guide

Your source for all things bridal

Doctor Profiles

Doctor Profiles

Click here to view 2013 physician profiles

Dental Profiles

Dental Profiles

Click here to view 2014 dental profiles