Friday, 25 February 2011

On The Rocks or Over Ice?

Ice is popular – big brands have all created wines and champagnes that you can drink on the rocks. It began on the back of the Cider over Ice craze that hit the UK back in 2007 which triggered a rash of products hoping to cash in on this growing trend. We had Champagne over Ice with Piper Heidsieck's Piscine, and Moët & Chandon's Moët Ice Imperial . . . and Rosé over Ice with Stormhoek's Couture and Rosemount Estate's Rosemount O – and most recently a Red Over Ice with E & J Gallo's Summer Red (see Nick's Blog Red Wine Over Ice – A Must or a Must Not?).

I read recently that there is even an Ice Cider (Cidre de Glace) which is the cider equivalent of ice wine, made from the frozen juice of apples. Ice Cider was invented by Frenchman Christian Barthomeuf, a pioneer of Québec's small wine industry. He planted the first vineyard in Dunham in the 1970s, and by the 1980s was making Ice Wine (from grapes).

Last year's Bordeaux Wine Festival paid tribute to its francophone twin city, Quebec and this year Quebec will be the next city to host a carbon copy of the event. The date set is September 2012, during the Grand Prix cycling race (when the International Pro Tour will be passing through the city), which coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the twinning of Bordeaux with Quebec.

Quebec has it's own wine industry and in 1995 the Association des Vignerons du Québec and the Syndicat viticole des Graves et Graves supérieures of the Bordeaux region united in a professional partnership. The St. Lawrence river valley, south of the province, is a fertile region where wild grapes and other fruits grow naturally and abundantly. When presence of wild grapes (vitis riparia) on Île d'Orléans and for this reason named it Île de Bacchus, in honour of the Roman God of wine.

Quebec has a four-month long winter which freezes the land deep enough so that most varietals of European vines do not survive. In the 1980s, Quebec wine growers started planting varietals known for their resistance to below-zero temperatures and in certain cases made use of modern techniques to heat up the soil during the coldest days of winter. Quebec wine makers have 6 months to accomplish what in warmer wine regions takes 11 to 12 months to do.

In 1989 Christian Barthomeuf created the first Ice Cider. The orchard and vineyard occupy 35 hectares at Clos Saragnat which sits at an altitude of 220 metres on the south flank of Mount Pinnacle, a mile away from Vermont. The late season apples are left on the trees, at the mercy of Quebec's freezing winters. They are picked when the temperature hovers around -8°C to -15°C, and then pressed and left to cold ferment for months.

Ice Cider first became available in shops in 1996 and today it accounts for about 70% of all sales of Quebec products. There are now about 50 producers. Ice Cider can be drunk as an aperitif or paired with cheeses, grilled fish and apparently goes well with spicy food.

Interestingly an Ice Perry (Poire de Glace) has also now been created. Domaine de Salamandres make a Pear Ice Wine and Philion produce Gaia.

In the UK Dragon Orchard in Putley, Herefordshire make both Ice Cider and Ice Perry. This is a small traditional fruit farm that has been tended by the Stanier family for over 80 years. Without the freezing winters of Quebec their Ice Cider and Ice Perry are made from the frozen juice of the pressed fruit. Their Blenheim Superb Dessert Cider uses Blenheim Orange and Laxtons Superb apples and their Wonder Dessert Pear Wine uses Conference and Comice pears.

I have yet to taste Ice Cider and Ice Perry and would be interested to hear if any of you have and what you think about it!


lostpastremembered said...

I love the idea for ice cider. At my old house in cold upstate NY, the muskrats would burrow under the snow under the apple trees by the river to get at the 'snow apples'. Then my St Bernard would go after the muskrats.. it was usually a melee but it churned up the apples and the smell was the best perfume ever.... it was like apples on steroids. I can imagine a wine made with them would be insanely good. Thanks for the news... will find one to try.

PS Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog!

Jacqueline said...

Hi, do you have an email address I could contact you on?


Sue said...

Hi Jacqueline,

I have sent you an email via your blogger profile contact details with our email address - hope it reaches you OK. If it doesn't please let me know. You can reach me on



Sue said...

Thanks Deanna, I love your phrase that the scent was like apples on steroids! I wish I could have seen your St Bernard chasing the muskrats and the ensuing melee!