I was invited by my wife's family to go on a winery tour in the Eastern townships this past weekend. I didn't know too much about wine but I do have a keen interest to define my palate, learn about wine and bond with my new family. Now the one thing I didn't realize was that we were also going on an Iced cider tour. Iced Cider is something I have only known to have existed for the last 3 years of me living in Montreal. We were staying in Freihlisburg which is home to the inventor of Iced cider Mr Christian Barthomeuf and his vineyard/orchard Clos Saragnat.
So we were lucky enough to get a private tour of Clos Saragnat. On our tour of this rather large scenic property, Mr Barthomeuf very warmly welcomed us and went into describing his use of a biodiversity scheme to plant so that he could have the birds eat the bugs instead of using pesticides. He also has chickens who aid in getting rid of the insects and keeping the operation very organic.
Mr. Barthomeuf is very open to tell us whatever we could possibly want to know about his vineyard. As we came back towards the winery we came across his vegetable garden, and his chickens at work. Him and his partner Louise have budgeted so that they only produce enough to cover their expenses, and that way they are living very sustainable. He is also a very strong supporter of the small organic farmers, and local industry.
As for the cider it is an interesting process. The apples are not picked when ripened, but only once the temperature has been below -10 degrees for more than 3 consecutive days. So hardier apple varieties are needed to survive. Mr Barthomeuf has actually patiently found wild varieties that are native to the area, and some that were here even before the Europeans arrived. Once the apples have been frozen to the core they are brought to the press one load at a time. No more apples can be picked than can be pressed because they need to stay frozen. Clos Saragnat has 3 presses and each press will take 8 hours to extract the juice of the apples at about 4500 PSI. 50 large apples will yield about 1 L and I believe the press can hold enough to make 500 L at one go. Once the juice is pressed it is left to cold ferment for a minimum of 2 years. So it is definitely a craft that requires great patience.
I don't know if it was because we found out so much about how the cider was made but it was the best Iced cider I have tasted. It was very rich and sweet, tasted like iced tarte aux pommes, apricot (glaze) and all. I love to know were my products are coming from so this was very good trip for me. Also I am breaking the blogs down into segments because there was so much learnt on this trip, too much to include in one blog.
If you would like to take this tour yourself call ahead as they only give the tours a couple times a month and you have to book in advance. Info is on their site Clos Saragnat.