When Beauchamp Imports and French Cider were just starting to take shape in my imagination, Pierre Huet was the first cidre and Calvados estate I contacted. I emailed them on a whim, and to my surprise, their export agent contacted me right away. Within ten months, on a drizzly Normandy summer day, I walked into a bright, modern tasting room and was greeted by Francois-Xavier Huet, the fifth-generation owner and operator, and Eric Fourault, the helpful export agent.
One of the oldest Calvados estates in France, Pierre Huet is located in the heart of the Pays d’Auge, the premiere Calvados producing region. It’s an 18th century Normandy farm with half-timbered houses and outbuildings set at the end of a winding lane. Lush green pastures and apple orchards are the backdrop for the estate house which looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. It is bustling with visitors.
An astounding 25,000 people visit a year, making it one of the ten most visited private places in France (excluding public monuments like the Eiffel Tower). Francois-Xavier is proud to sell 60% of their cider and Calvados to locals and visitors. Five generations of history and know-how go into Pierre Huet products and brand. Francois-Xavier is steeped in historical legacy even while he focuses on being innovative and modern. For example, he recently converted their traditional copper pot still to a more economical wood burning still which uses apple wood chips from their apple orchards. He said it results in better Calvados and is better for the earth than using gas or fossil-based fuels. That pot still, gleaming with deep red enamel, sits proudly at the front of the show room so visitors can watch the distillation process.
And what a process. All the Pierre Huet Calvados carries the Calvados AOC or Calvados AOC Pays d'Auge, meaning it follows strict production and distillation requirements set forth by the French INAO board. For the Calvados AOC Pays d’Auge that we are carrying, for instance, Pierre Huet can use only certain apple (and pear) varieties from their own AOC certified orchards. After blending the approved percentages (no more than 30% pear juice), the juice is fermented for 12 months in 100-year-old oak barrels. This cidre is then distilled twice in the still and then barreled again in oak in the Pierre Huet caves to age for at least two years. Some Calvados ages up to 50 years.
The 2-year (VS) and the 8-year (XO) blends are the most popular. When Francois-Xavier, Eric and I taste them, it’s easy to see why they have received numerous awards. They are delightful and satisfying, with a floral and fruity initial taste followed by a hint of mint and caramel apple at the finish. There was no doubt about importing these to Washington State for our clients.
We also taste Pierre Huet cidre and poiré and I decided on the spot that these cidre and poiré products, along with their Calvados, would become the foundation of my debut portfolio. Their cidre products are pasteurized or unpasteurized, and while they are not certified organic, Francois-Xavier minimizes applications of insecticide and fertilizer. He is more than content with a 20-ton yield per hectare, compared with commercial eating apple producers in France that routinely push to 50- to 60-ton yield through extensive use of fertilizers.
So here I am, almost 4 months after that magical day at Pierre Huet, with the taste still lingering in my mouth, waiting impatiently for a containership to arrive in Seattle carrying several pallets of Pierre Huet’s wonderful, authentic Normandy cidre, poiré and Calvados. Please join us as we introduce these treasures at the French American Chamber of Commerce Beaujolais Nouveau celebration at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7pm. Please help us kick off the holiday season and Beauchamp’s fantastic French Cider adventure. A bien tot!
We currently distribute cidre, poiré, and Calvados to fine restaurants, bars, clubs, wedding venues and specialty retailers in the state of Washington through Beauchamp Imports, Inc. To request a tasting for your licensed establishment, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing our portfolio of fine products with you!