Sidra de Hielo
In less than 30 years, a Quebec oddity has become a worldwide phenomenon. And few places outside Quebec have latched on to it quite as much as Asturias. From the first bottles produced in Asturias (at Panizales in 2014) to now being able to find it on grocery store shelves throughout the region, sidra de hielo has quickly become a much loved drink in Asturias.
In 1989 an enterprising winemaker in Dunham, Quebec named Christian Barthomeuf created a new recipe. Inspired by the Eiswein of Germany, he set out to apply the technique to apples. His winery, La Face Cachée de la Pomme (now Domaine Neige) was the first commercial producer of the new ice cider. In 2001, international interest began with exports to France.
In 2014 Quebecois Ice Cider was awarded IGP status. And in 2017, the Asturian Fundación de la Sidra awarded Barthomeuf their highest award, for creating this new cider product.
Making Ice Cider
In Quebec there are two methods of production; cryoextraction and cryoconcentration. Cryoextraction requires leaving the apples on the tree until they have undergone multiple freeze/thaw cycles. In Quebec this is used to make very high end ice ciders. Owing to the mild winters in Asturias, it is not possible here. Therefore cryoconcentration is used.
In cryoconetration, the apples are harvested in autumn as usual and pressed. They are then stored below freezing and the frozen water removed. After multiple cycles of this, you have a very concentrated must, which is then fermented. The volume is roughly 25% of the original volume after pressing.
Where To Find It in Asturias
The following are the Asturian producers of sidra de hielo that I know of. If I find any more, I will certainly update this list:
- Panizales: Sidra de Hielo Panizales
- Cortina: Sidra de Hielo Cortina
- Pumaradas de Sariego: Valverán 20 Manzanas
- Viuda de Angelón: Diamantes de Hielo
- Riestra: Sidra de Hielo Guzmán Riestra
- Sidra El Gaitero: 1898
- Martínez Sopeña Hermanos: Hibernís
How To Drink Sidra de Hielo
Regardless of method used, ice cider uses a lot of apples – between 50 and 100 apples to make a single 375 ml bottle. Obviously this means they are not for daily drinking. But, when the occasion calls for it, they make a spectacular accompaniment to blue cheeses, foie gras, sharp goat cheeses, and spicy seafood tapas. The synergy between blue cheeses and ice cider most certainly has something to do with its popularity in Asturias!
So how should you enjoy your sidra de hielo? Cold, obviously. The best temperature to serve it at is ~10℃. You should also have some smaller glasses than your average cider glass. Small white wine glasses like viognier are popular, as are dessert ice wine tulips.
Provide some nice accompaniments to go along with your sidra hielo. Asturian blue cheeses are a natural pairing. Mushroom pâté, foie gras, and other boldly flavored fatty spreads are great. Paired with a plain cheesecake, ice cider becomes ridiculously extravagant.
You can cellar and age ice cider like other dessert wines. The complexity increases for 5 or so years. My assumption is that like any good dessert wine, the best made examples can continue improving essentially for decades. I’ll let you know in 10 years…