Manoir de Montreuil
Giard is one of the grand old names in the Pays d'Auge appellation of Calvados. Roger Giard, now in his eighties, retired about fifteen years ago and handed the reigns of the Domaine de Montreuil to his son Patrice, who now directs the property along with his wife Michelle. The Giards have traced their family's history back twelve generations to the 1700's.
Their domaine, located in the small community of Montreuil, lies along the heart of the cider route and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the Pays d'Auge especially when white fluffy clouds dot the deep blue sky. It lays on a series of hillsides and valleys and is an ideal spot to take photographs of the classic calvados landscape with black and white normand cows grazing under free standing trees loaded with green and red apples.
The family has 30 hectares (74 acres) of orchards, planted entirely in the traditional, free-standing haute-tige method, making for a total of about 3,000 trees. Having haute-tige trees serves a double purpose for Giard in that his 200 cows are free to graze within the orchard. They eat the lush grass, aerate the soil with their weight and enrich the soil with their dung. It's a natural cycle that allows the family to work without any fertilizers. In August the cows are removed from the orchards so that they don't eat any of the apples as they begin to fall from the trees.
Pays d'Auge apples to be distilled into calvados brandy. The soils are mostly comprised of clay and small amounts of flint and chalk, with very little topsoil. The apples are a mixture of the four categories; sweet, bittersweet, acidic and bitter. Giard is a big defender of the old varieties, which are less productive but have plenty of tannic compounds called polyphenols and lots of sugar. Some of his favorites on the property include Domaine, Bedan, Fagotier, St. Philbert, Frequin Rouge, and the acidic Rimbault, Petit Jaune and Blanc Sur.
As with preceding generations, Giard waits for the fruit to fall, then collects it after it has been on the ground. The cider to be used for distillation will go into well-seasoned tonneau where it stays for one year and ferments sur lie.
After being double-distilled, the new spirit goes into a variety of well-seasoned oak casks. Giard prefers to refinish the ends of some barrels than buy new wood, not only to avoid green oak notes but to also let the apple flavors predominate. Patrice empties and refills the barrels every couple of years, gradually reducing them with rainwater until they reach 42% alcohol.
In 2006, importer Charles Neal spent some time in front of the still with Patrice Giard while he distilled his year-old cider. They began tasting through a number of barrels together, and an idea was born to combine a number of barrels into the best possible young blend. The result, called Reserve, is comprised of 30% barrel #38 (distilled in 1998), 40% from barrel #32 (distilled in 2000) and 30% from barrel #4 (distilled in 2003), creating blend whose average age is seven years old. The initial release is a mere 480 bottles. It shows forthcoming apple flavors, along with a touch of vanilla, smoke, spice and subtle hint of beeswax.