Calvados is an apple brandy produced in the French region of Lower Normandy (Basse-Normandie). Apples selected for distillation into Calvados fall into over 200 specially-grown varieties. Several varieties may be used for one brand of Calvados, ranging from very sweet apples to tart and bitter, at various proportions. The fruit is harvested, usually by hand, from mid-October into December and pressed to make a juice which is subsequently fermented into a dry cider. The cider is then distilled into an eau-de-vie, which is blended and matured for a minimum of two years in casks. The longer the maturation, the more mellow the final expression. Usually the maturation for Calvados goes on for several years. There is a range of classifications that can be used by producers, with the age referring to the youngest component of the blend:
- Fine, Trois étoiles and Trois pommes for a Calvados matured for at least two years
- Vieux Réserve for one of at least three years in age
- VO, Vieille Réserve or VSOP is at least four years old
- Extra, XO, Napoléon or Hors d'Age is at least six years old
Much of the Calvados sold is much older, typically 12, 18, 15 or 25 years old.