Ian Cloutier, an SAQ employee for the last 17+ years, is here to provide some expert advice on local products, having long nurtured a love for spirits made in Quebec at his store in Aylmer.
He notes that not only is there a growing number of distilleries, cider houses and vineyards throughout the province, the quality of their products also keeps getting better every year. Read on to see a festive selection of products you can gift throughout the season and share during your holiday dinners.
Cidrerie Milton Original
Let’s kick things off with one of Ian’s absolute favourites. While the Lasniers have grown apples for almost 100 years, they only recently started producing cider. CID Original is a light cider made with McIntosh and Spartan apples. It’s perfect for serving to anyone who’s curious about the wide world of Quebec ciders, due to its bold and fruity aroma. According to Ian, “It tastes the way great music sounds. It’s truly a delight!”
Michel Jodoin Rosé Pétillant
Another family business—this one was founded in 1901. Later, Michel made the decision to leave farmer’s markets behind and start producing cider. Their Sparkling Rosé is made with McIntosh and Geneva apples, whose pink flesh gives the product its distinctive hue. Ian is unequivocal: “It’s one of the best sparkling ciders in the province!” After savouring its beautiful texture, fine bubbles and fresh finish for the very first time, he realized how complex a cider can really be.
Both this and the CID Original are available in smaller sizes, so they’re great for cocktail parties and as stocking stuffers!
Château de Cartes PetNat 2021
Let’s start by saying that PetNat is short for “petillant naturel,” which refers to naturally sparkling wine. Unlike crémant or champagne, these are the only types of wine that finish fermenting in the bottle, thus producing fine, little bubbles. Château de Cartes combines Frontenac gris and St. Croix grapes for their PetNat, which is slightly cloudy because it’s unfiltered. Ian loves how bold this wine is. What’s more, its small size (500 ml) and low alcohol content (10.5%) make it ideal for two people to enjoy together.
Domaine St-Jacques Brut 2018
Here’s another of Ian’s top picks—he’s been following this vineyard for quite a while and was eagerly awaiting the first bottles from this vintage. It was love at first sip with this wine, which he believes rivals certain champagnes and costs a fraction of the price. This Brut vintage mixes Chardonnay and Vidal, and is aged for two years before being sold, which ensures the most elegant bubbles and complex notes of pear, lemon confit, almond paste, and toast. This one’s for real aficionados to enjoy with their holiday turkey or to give to someone special!
Clos Saragnat Avalanche 2019
Not only do the artisan winemakers at Clos Saragnat produce incredible farmhouse ciders, they’re also the ones who invented ice cider, some of which they make from apples hand-picked in the middle of winter. They’re aged in barrels for three years and boast a surprising texture and aroma. Gather some friends and pair it with a delectable (Quebec!) cheese board.
Rhum Sainte Marie Noix de Coco
Whether you’re just starting the evening or ending it with a night cap, here’s a coconut rum made in Montreal that you can enjoy on the rocks or mixed with a splash of pineapple juice. Ian likes it so much that he always makes sure to have a bottle at home—and that’s saying something because he’s a big fan of rum, even though he’s more skeptical of flavoured kinds. What won him over is the fact that this one is made with natural flavouring, so it tastes like real coconut. He recommends topping it up with a bit of lemony tonic water.
There's even more at Espace Québec
As you can see, Quebec has an embarrassment of local riches. People often feel more adventurous when there’s a reason to find something special, so take advantage of the holiday season to discover some delicious new products! And if you’re in the Gatineau or Aylmer area, pass by the SAQ Sélection at Galeries Aylmer and say hi to Ian.
Check out our Origine Québec, Bottled in Québec and Made in Québec products at Espace Québec | SAQ.com.