By Christine Muschi
Gilles Drille knocks an apple against a white plastic container so the snow falls off. He wants no water to dilute the concentration when he presses them for Ice Cider, or Apple Ice Wine, as it is also known in the United States.
Gallery: How to make ice cider
Gilles is the grove manager for Domaine Pinnacle, an apple orchard in Frelighsburg, Quebec, an Eastern Townships municipality just minutes from the border with Vermont. He has been picking the apples of up to two trees per day for the last two months and pressing them for cider using a cryoextraction method. Apples are left on the trees and picked when the temperature hovers around -8 to -15 degrees Celsius (17 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit). They are then pressed and left to cold ferment for their Signature Reserve, which is a two year production cycle of fermentation and maturation in oak casks. Hundreds of trees and thousands of apples have been picked by this one man in a season.
Today the temperature has dropped below -10 C (14 F), and the apples Gilles knocks against the container sound like rocks as they hit the plastic. The colder the temperature, the higher the natural concentration of sugar will be. When he cuts the apple open later, you can see the deep amber color, and it smells like caramel. Courtland apples seem to work best as they stay on the trees longer, but there are a few varieties that will be included in the mix.
Ice cider has been produced in Quebec since the late 1990′s. With ice wine doing well, the thought was “why not try it with apple cider as well”? Two main groves with the same master cider maker — Domaine Pinnacle and La Face Cache de la Pomme — pioneered the process with Domaine Pinnacle going commercial in 2000. Today they are selling their products in over 60 countries.