In a land far, far away (roughly an hour outside Montreal), in a magical field of fruity sweets (commonly called an orchard), lies something that can only be described as the nectar of the gods… Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my drink of choice: the ice cider.
Us Canadians are quite familiar with this concoction, as the province is one of the world’s leading producers of ice wines and ice ciders. And, incidentally, some of Canada’s most acclaimed ice wineries are located right here in Québec, in the Montérégie region. And while most wine aficionados visit orchards in the fall for pie-baking reasons, it just doesn’t work that way when to comes to ice cider.
My favourite producer of all? La face cachée de la pomme. This is where ice cider was first commercialised and the owner’s passion is still very tangible today, despite having won dozens of prestigious awards.
La face cachée de la pomme
Housed in a historic 1842 stonehouse built by the Anglo-Saxon settlers and surrounded by a massive 16,000+ tree orchard, the cidery is as quaint as can be.
I won’t go into details about how the cider is produced (that isn’t vastly different from ice wine) as I’m certain François and Stéphanie, the owners, are much better at explaining the technical stuff than I ever will be! But if you only had a few things to know about ice cider, it would be this:
- There are two ways to produce cider:
- Cryoextraction: Apples (a special kind that doesn’t naturally fall from the tree) are harvested by hand in December or January after having been dehydrated by extensive sunlight and severe winds throughout autumn and early winter. This process allows the sugars to naturally part from the watery part of the apples.
- Cryoconcentration: Apples are usually pressed at the end of December. The extracted juice is stored outdoors throughout January —the coldest month of the year— to allow the watery part to crystallize and naturally separate itself from the sugars.
- The remaining sugars, called must, end up on the bottom of the barrel and are collected after a few days. Must will be stored for a six-to-eight month fermentation before it is bottled.
- Over 13 pounds of apples are required to produce one litre of ice cider.
Ice cider taffy. I’m not even kidding.Foie gras and ice cider jelly? Please and thank you.The cidery’s fluffy mascott, Rocco.
The NEIGE Ice Cider is quite famous outside of Québec, actually; it once was on El Bulli’s wine list, and it was served to none other than Barack Obama at a luncheon during his first official visit in Canada back in 2009. Nowadays, the cider is on sale in many cities across the world, including New York City and Paris.
And if you are one of the few strange creatures who can’t palate the taste of ice cider (a sin, surely!), rest assured that you will still enjoy a visit of La face cachée de la pomme as they also produce various kinds of still and sparkling cider and even apple gin.
Ice Cider Tastings: Why You Should Do It
Because it’s an intrinsic part of Québec culture.
Because it’s a “reserved appellation” product that can only be found in Québec thanks to the province’s cold climate (that’s one thing I have to thank winter for!).
Because ice cider makes for delicious and tasteful gift. For yourself or for others. #TreatYoSelf
Because you’ll get to meet passionate people and make lasting connections with the notoriously welcoming Québécois.
Because you’ll choose to spend your Canadian bucks on the local economy and not on sweatshops in Laos (I’m looking at you, cheesy t-shirts sold in tourist shops).
Because it’s not as expensive as one might think – especially if you’re an American visiting Canada and buying all the things because of the laughable rate exchange. Most products sell between $10 and $30.
Ice Cider Montreal: A Few Tips
- La face cachée de la pomme is every from April to December to visitors and offers walk-in $5 tasting sessions as well as guided visits of the installations. Premium packages are also available. It is also open on January weekends. January to April, the cidery is open on appointment only.
- There are many other cider producers in the region; my two favourites, besides La face cachée de la pomme, are Cidrerie Michel Jodoin and Coteau Rougemont.
- If you really, really like ice cider and cider in general, you can even tour the Montérégie Cider Route.
- While there are buses from Montreal to Montérégie, it would really be best to rent a car to really appreciate the journey. The region is particularly scenic and deserves a proper tour.