Enjoy this stylish French resort while discovering one of its best beers and the local Calvados.
Once the Southampton Boat Show ends (25 September) there is still time for an end-of-season cruise.
There is Deauville, the stylish seaside resort on France’s Baie de la Seine coast. You will find striking belle-époque buildings, a grand casino incorporating four restaurants, two bars and a nightclub, classy wine stores and a long beach boardwalk once graced by many celebrities from an earlier elegant era.
Our visit was early June, travelling by car and ferry via Le Havre. The marina was getting ready for yachts arriving for the first leg (to Cowes) of the Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro race. But the weather was wintery bleak and rainy so we abandoned the waterfront and went to the back of town to visit La Paillette boutique brewery.
First brewed in 1596, La Paillette is well known throughout Normandy. It is brewed in the French Pilsner lager style, but the strong malty flavour is much nearer an English Pale Ale. At 4.7 per cent, it is available in bottles or on draft in local bars. My tasting panel of normally English ale enthusiasts declared it a good alternative, refreshing and tangy on the tongue.
Too small an operation to export, it is a must-try in Deauville, Honfleur or Le Havre and a must-buy to bring home in neat 33cl bottles at 45 euros per 24 bottle case.
This part of Normandy, the Pays d’Auge, is Calvados territory too, and just a few kilometres south of Deauville is the local Calvados distillery, Château du Breuil.
Calvados distilling began in the 1500s and since 1942 it has had its own Appellation Contrôlée AOC ‘Pays d’Auge’ which requires apples produced only in the Pays d’Auge area and a double-distillation process in copper stills.
At Château du Breuil, the home-grown bitter apples are first made into a five per cent alcohol cider using natural fermentation. This is then double-distilled and matured for at least two years in pre-used oak barrels and bottled at 40 per cent. It takes about 11 kilos of apples or eight litres of the cider to make one litre of Chateau du Breuil. Each Calvados is different; each cellar master has his own jealously guarded secret.
A two-year-old gets three stars on the label, a three-year-old is already called ‘vieux’ or Réserve, VSOP or Vieille Réserve is at least four years old and Napoléan or Age Inconnu can be from six to 25 years old, by which time it is dark brown and over £100 a bottle.
The younger brews have a yellow-gold colour and are distinctly apple flavoured – the French use them for cooking. The best for drinking for a reasonable price are around five years old. Anything which says ‘Pays d’Auge’ will be very acceptable.
It is best to buy in or around Deauville where there is plenty of choice. Over here, Père Magloire, 40 per cent, is well distributed and costs around £22.50 for a 50cl bottle. Or you can buy Château du Breuil, 70cl, from www.drinksupermarket.com £23.69 to £73.19 depending on age.
Calvados is a delightful after dinner sipper to accompany French cheese, chocolate desserts, ice cream or French crêpes with an ice cube or a small splash of water. Do not return from a Deauville voyage without at least one bottle, to cheer up the approaching winter.