What is ice cider?
Ice cider is a sweet cider obtained by fermenting apple juice that is concentrated by periods of natural cold. It was invented in the early ’90s by Christian Barthomeuf right here in Québec’s Eastern Townships. Originally from France and inspired by ice wine, the viticulturist noticed the potential in frozen apples. He came up with the idea of pressing them to extract the juice, just like the process that turns grapes into ice wine.
The result of this union of the cold and the apple, this unique product is now served on the best tables around the world.
Since ice cider’s creation and marketing, a lot of work has gone into refining production techniques, leading to the creation of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) designation in 2014. The designation defines the strict rules local producers must follow to be able to use the “Québec ice cider” appellation.
How our ice ciders are made
At Domaine Pinnacle, we have been turning fresh apples into celebrated nectar since our first batch in 2002. Learn about each step in our unique process, which requires time and precision to create a superior product. All this is done in close partnership with Mother Nature and her cycle of seasons.
Our apples are grown in Québec and picked when ripe.
The quality of our ice ciders begins with the care we take when selecting the apples. For us, the fruit harvest is always a very special time because it marks the beginning of the ice cider production process. It’s also when we are rewarded for all our painstaking work in the orchard over long months to work with nature to get the best fruit.
At Domaine Pinnacle, one of our goals is to be ambassadors of our region, our terroir, which is why we have chosen to work with apples that are representative of Québec. We use only late-season apple varieties that are adapted to a cold climate and have a longer maturation and more intense, rich flavour. Late-season apple varieties are always harvested late in the year, during the first days of fall, to give the fruit the time it needs to reach peak maturity—the perfect balancing point between aroma and sweetness. The apples are then chilled to maintain their flavour until the winter’s first extremely cold spells.
The dominant apple variety in our blends is Cortland, which gives our ice ciders body and depth. We round out the blend with other late-season varieties such as McIntosh, Spartan, Empire, Golden Delicious and Russet. We adjust our blend based on the profile of the year’s harvest, which differs each year according to Mother Nature’s whims, to create a subtle balance that combines aromatic richness, body and fresh taste. And that’s the compelling trademark that has made our ice ciders iconic since the very first harvest.
The first big cold spells are exciting times for us!
For most people, when periods of extreme cold arrive, it’s time for fun winter sports, followed by cozy evenings in front of the fire watching the snow fall. For us, it’s time to get outside. It’s the start of the second exciting part of the ice cider production process.
In fact, when the first cold spells are announced, it’s our signal to press the apples. The fresh apple must will immediately be placed outside to enable the eagerly awaited meeting of fruit and extreme cold.
Once our musts are outside and exposed to the winter conditions, we have to be patient. We need to give the cold time to work its magic during the long concentration process of sugars and aromas.
It’s a natural method that concentrates the apples’ sugars and aromas using just the cold.
Crystals form when the liquid comes in contact with the cold, naturally separating the water from the must. It gradually becomes concentrated as the cold turns the water into crystals. Acting from the outside in, the cold slowly penetrates the centre to extract the water from the must, which becomes heavier and gently settles with gravity on the bottom of the vat, concentrating the sugars and aromas.
At Domaine Pinnacle, we follow this natural and very lengthy method of concentrating sugars. This is accomplished by the accumulation of the effects of the successive waves of cold spells our winters bring, defining the style and personality of our ice ciders.
When the concentration process is finished, it’s time to delicately collect the apple must concentrate before the temperature outside rises and melts the water trapped in the ice. Time for the drawoff!
In this process, simple gravity works on the concentrate so that the must, with its high concentration of sugar and aromas, is racked off without becoming diluted.
The concentrated must that was carefully collected during the drawoff will then ferment in stainless steel tanks for several months. The tanks will preserve all the apples’ aromatic complexity which is at the heart of Domaine Pinnacle – the variety of flavours from that come from fresh apple to hints Tarte Tatin, the classic French dessert. This natural magical process is how we produce rich and fruity ice ciders with amazing liveliness!
READY TO TASTE
Ready to taste
At the end of this long process, patiently following nature’s seasonal cycle, Domaine Pinnacle ice cider is finally ready to taste! It takes 18 months from the first snip of the secateurs to prune the apple trees to the first bottle of ready-to-taste cider and no less than 15 pounds of apples to produce each litre of this precious beverage.