The ciders of Quebec
In that part of Canada, apple cider is always what Americans call ‘hard.’
The Demoy family—Robert, Joelle, Audrenne, Alan.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CIDRERIE DU MINOT
In Canada’s Quebec province, the word cider means only one thing—fermented apple juice. You don’t call it hard cider, or apple wine. You just call it cider.
Unlike in the United States, in Quebec apple juice isn’t called cider until it is a fermented, alcoholic beverage. The word wine is reserved for the fruit of the vine.
During the International Fruit Tree Association tour to Quebec last summer, 180 visitors got a taste of this Quebec tradition several times, including a visit to Cidrerie du Minot in Hemmingsford. Owners Robert and Joelle Demoy founded it in 1987, and the next year obtained the first provincial license to make and sell what are called artisan ciders.
“There used to be a lot of producers making a little cider all the time and putting it in their basements for home consumption,” said Stephanie Levasseur, who acted as a tour guide and interpreter on the tour. Her family owns and operates Au Coeur de la Pomme at Frelighsburg, where they sell flavored artisan vinegars they make from their orchard’s apples.
In the 1970s, she said, the province decided to make an industry out of cider and issued licenses to large companies. “They began making very bad cider,” she said. By the late 1980s, these permits were pulled, and artisan cider permits were created. “It’s a growing industry now, with around 50 producers,” she said.
The Demoys are transferring ownership of their business to their two adult children, Alan and Audrenne. Audrenne guided the IFTA tourists through the processing side of their facility.
Each year, the family uses all the apples from their 120 acres of orchards to make cider. They grow McIntosh, Cortland, Lobo, Melba, Empire, Liberty, Trent, Geneva, and Golden Russet varieties and use them in various combinations to make 11 ciders of four combinations, still and sparkling, plain cider and ice cider.
Their first cider was called Crémant de Pomme Du Minot, a sparkling cider that in 1989 became the first handcrafted alcoholic cider to be sold through provincial liquor control board outlets, regulated by the Société des alcools du Québec.
In Quebec, only low-alcohol beverages like beer may be sold at stores and supermarkets, and 7 percent alcohol is the cutoff. They sell most of their cider through their ciderie, equivalent to a winery tasting and sales room.
The two leading cider-consuming countries in the world are the United Kingdom and France. The eastern United States once shared that tradition, but it was virtually stamped out by 15 years of Prohibition that somewhat sobered the Roaring Twenties, now nearly a century ago.
Quebec also felt Prohibition’s sway. The SAQ was formed in 1921 to control sales of alcoholic beverages.
Robert and Joelle don’t share that history. They emigrated to Canada from Brittany in northern France in the 1970s, bringing that area’s cider tradition with them and transplanting it in Quebec. He was part of the movement to create artisan ciders.
Robert is an oenology graduate from the University of Bordeaux in France. He worked as a consultant oenologist in Bordeaux, then as an industry consultant in cider and wine in Quebec. He was a technical advisor for many small-scale producers in the province. He teaches handicraft cider production at the Institut de Technologie Agroalimentaire de Saint-Hyacinthe.
The process of making cider at Cidrerie du Minot starts with grinding the apples and squeezing out the juice using a belt press. It has a capacity of about two tons per hour, Audrenne said. The pomace is composted and used in the orchard.
Juice is pumped into stainless steel tanks in the fermentation room. Some of the tanks are equipped to keep the juice cold and retain carbon dioxide in making carbonated (sparkling) ciders. •