The Knowledgeable Wino: Welcome to cider country

Experiencing Quebec cider whisperer Christian Barthomeuf’s mastery of icewine and ice cider production is a seasonal must. Here are our knowledgeable wino’s suggestions for some delicious Quebec ciders.

Domaine des côtes d’Ardoise is Quebec’s oldest vineyard
Photos by Giancarlo Rivera

New York City may be the Big Apple, and there is, in fact, a giant, magical, pie-purveyor-petting-zoo apple on the Toronto-Kingston stretch of the 401, but it is Quebec that does the apple like no other. Champagne has its sparkling wine, Porto has its fortified wine and Quebec has its cider. Considering how far any one of those has to travel to get into your mouth, Quebec ciders and wines have possibly the lowest carbon footprint you’ll find in a tasty alcoholic beverage.

Cider is produced the world over, but in Quebec we use what we have to set us apart: our bitter winters. Ice cider is a Quebec invention through and through. In 1989, a few months after Paul’s Boutique gangbanged the globe’s boomboxes, Christian Barthomeuf, Quebec cider’s real McCoy, used a new technique on his apple crop to create the world’s first ice cider. Still in the cider game, he currently runs his fossil-fuel-free show (horses and electric motors only — how’s that shoe for your carbon foot?) at Clos Saragnat in Frelighsburg, in the Eastern Townships.

He avoids pesticides and uses pest-resistant wild apples instead. The result is an ice cider that transports your taste buds to a blissful astral-apple-plane. His 2009 Avalanche Ice Cider (SAQ code: 11133221; $27.40 for 200 mL) is bursting with mellow apple, brown sugar and honey flavours. His 2009 L’Original Ice Cider (available only at the Frelighsburg location; $26.50 for 200 mL) is the unfiltered version and has no additives or preservatives —well worth the trip for cider lovers. Serve them chilled with a platter of aged Quebec cheddar, dried figs and walnuts.

Roughly a decade ago, Barthomeuf was hired by Domaine Pinnacle to help set up shop. Today they are a big Quebec cider exporter, shipping to 34 countries, and use an element almost unique to Quebec in their cider: maple syrup. The Coureur des Bois Maple Cider (SAQ code: 11165353; $21.50 for 375 mL) is packing aromas of apple pie and caramel covered in maple syrup. Serve this sweet baby chilled next to a warm Quebec apple crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Quebec is a cool-climate wine region, just like Germany, so Riesling (the king of German wines) in Dunham, is like Carey Price in a Canadiens jersey. I sampled one from the Domaine des côtes d’Ardoise, Quebec’s oldest vineyard and one founded by none other than the impressive Mr. Barthomeuf in 1980 (seriously, what hasn’t this guy done for the Quebec wine and cider industry?). The 2010 Riesling (Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec, $15) is light-bodied and dry, and has smooth peach and subtle lime aromas with a balanced, refreshing acidity. Leave it in the fridge for an hour before serving and pair with sushi or Oktoberfest sausage and sauerkraut. Santé! 

Quebec-produced ciders and wines are available in many SAQs and specialty shops. A good bet for a decent variety is Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec at the Jean-Talon Market. 

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