France is known the world over for the fine wines they produce. Regions like Bordeaux or Champagne have for centuries been spoiling us with some of the best red wine from Bordeaux, white and rosé wines as well as champagne from Champagne region. The French are also renowned for their fine cuisine and a wonderful way of life that means meal times are more than just a little bit important.
I have spent many happy times in France, enjoying all of these things and I have learnt a lot about their cuisine both traditional and modern. I have also learnt to appreciate the very fine alcohols they produce in the various regions of the country and am particularly fond of the very civilised tradition of ‘l’heure de l’apéritif’. There are many wonderful alcohols produced in France. Mirabelle and Eau de Vie which translated means ‘water of life’ are tremendously good. Being on holiday means treating yourself to things you don’t normally get to do and having an aperitif before a meal is a real treat that I really do enjoy.
Eau de Vie can be made out of many different fruits like plums, pears, apples or peaches. The fruit which is very ripe when harvested is then crushed before it’s distilled. These alcohols are crystal clear and bottled very quickly to preserve the delicate and light flavours of the fruits. I particularly like Calvados which is made out of apples but then I really enjoy a glass of Mirabelle too which is made out of yellow plums.
The apples used in the production of Calvados are specifically grown for this purpose and there are over 200 varieties used to make Calvados. Some of these varieties are incredibly sweet whereas others can be quite tart to the point of being bitter to the taste. Before Calvados is made, the apples are crushed and then fermented to make a very dry cider. It is at this point that the alcohol is distilled to produce the Eau de Vie. This is then aged for up to two years in wooden casks. It is the casks that give the alcohol its colouring, so the longer it’s aged, the deeper the colour. If you ever find a bottle of Calvados with a ‘Vieille Reserve’ on it then you know it has been aged for at least four years but there are some which have been aged for up to 25 years and these are particularly good.
Alcohols are made very traditionally in France and whenever we travel to France, we always buy a bottle or two to bring home with us. I like to serve these wonderful alcohols when we have friends over for dinner or at Christmas time when the whole family comes to our house for the festivities. Everyone enjoys a drink during holiday season in France and I love serving a glass of Eau de Vie or Calvados because it reminds me so much of the happy days we spend in France. It is like bringing a little bit of tradition home with us and we remember our trips to this lovely country and the great times we have there.