Giard is one of the grand old names in the Pays d'Auge appellation of Calvados. The Giards have traced their family's history back 12 generations to the 1700's. When Roger Giard, now in his nineties, retired he handed the reigns of the Domaine du Manoir de Montreuil to his son Patrice, who now directs the property along with his wife Michelle.
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 lies 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 of orchards, planted entirely in the traditional tall-tree (haute-tige) method, making for a total of about 3,000 trees. The soils are mostly comprised of clay and small amounts of flint and chalk, with very little topsoil. Their 200 cows are free to graze among these trees, and they eat the lush grass, aerate the soil with their weight and enrich the soil with their dung--a natural cycle that allows the family to work without any fertilizers.
In August when the apples begin to fall, the cows are removed from the orchards so they won't eat them. These 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 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 collects the fruit only after it has fallen to 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 rather than buy new wood, not only to avoid green oak notes but to also let the apple flavors predominate. He empties and refills the barrels every couple of years, gradually reducing them with rainwater until they reach 42% alcohol.