Apéritif & Dessert Ciders: Pommeau, Ice Cider, & Royal Cider
What is Pommeau?
Pommeau is an Apéritif made by blending unfermented apple cider with apple brandy. The mixture is then aged in oak barrels, typically for at least 3 years and often longer. The high percentage of alcohol from the apple brandy prevents the fresh juice from fermenting. The prolonged aging results in a rich melding of flavors from the juice, brandy, and barrel that is intense yet smooth and delicious.
Pommeau typically has an alcohol by volume in the 16-18% range, and is best enjoyed an ounce or two at a time at cellar temperatures. Stored at cellar temperatures or refrigerated, even an open bottle of Pommeau will age exceptionally well and can be enjoyed for years like any fine spirit.
Pommeau is often served as an Apéritif, or alongside cheese or apple-based desserts. It makes for a wonderful standalone dessert as well.
Traditionally, Pommeau was first made throughout Northwestern France, primarily in Normandy and Brittany. France has one of the oldest histories of cider making in the world. The French bittersweet apple varieties commonly used in French cider, with their high tannins and low acidity, make for an exquisite juice for use in Pommeau.
In France, agricultural products are labeled with an A.O.C. (appellation d'origine contrôlée), which serves as a formal designation that a product meets the geographic requirements (terroir) and the traditional farming or production practices. This will be found on many traditional French Pommeau labels and descriptions as either A.O.C. Pommeau de Normandie (Normandy), or Pommeau de Bretagne (Brittany). Notably, Calvados is apple brandy made in Normandy and carries a similar A.O.C. Many descriptions of Pommeau will reference Calvados in place of apple brandy, which is most appropriate for any description of traditional Pommeau.
Many cider makers around the U.S. and world are now making their own Pommeau. Not all are labeled as Pommeau and may be referenced as Apple Dessert Wine, or Fortified Apple Wine, etc.
What is Ice Cider?
Ice Cider is a desert wine in which either the apples are frozen (typically on the tree) prior to pressing (cryoextraction) or the apples are pressed and the juice put outside to freeze (cryoconcentration). Both methods concentrate the sugars in the apples, with the resulting beverage naturally sweet but balanced with acidity. It also makes for a fantastic desert on it's own, and pairs beautifully with cheese.
Naturally, Ice Cider is most commonly produced in regions with colder fall and winter climates. Ice Cider was first created in the Canadian province of Quebec. The nearby Northeastern parts of the U.S. have several cider makers crafting Ice Cider, most famously Eden's in Vermont - we're fortunate to carry a few of them in our shop! We've also enjoyed exceptional Ice Ciders from producers in Massachusetts & Upstate New York.
What is Royal Cider?
Royal Cider is most similar to Pommeau, however the apple brandy is either blended with fermented cider (rather than unfermented juice), or it's blended with juice that continues to ferment out. The result is similar in nuance, but typically much less sweet.
We have a growing collection of Pommeau, Ice Cider, and other Apéritif or dessert style drinks from the cider category. We've grouped them in this collection for their similarities in drinking experience. New to Pommeau or Ice Cider? Keep reading and get to know about these delicious products over a sip or two!