Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Icewine: A gift from Canada’s Winter Wonderland

If there is something great that comes out from the cold winter seasons in Canada, is Icewine. Icewine has become an icon of Canada due to its rarity in production in the world. The Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula has been known for producing Canada’s finest icewine. However, production is not limited there; icewine is also produced in Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec. The second biggest nation to produce icewine is Germany, but it is also produced in other countries like Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and the Michigan region in the United States. But what is exactly “icewine”?

When making wine, the juices from grapes are extracted, fermented, filtered and then bottled. The process of making icewine is similar, except that it happens during the winter time. The typical types of grapes used for icewine production are Riesling, Vidal, and Cabarnet Franc. Grapes are left in their vines into the winter months and harvested between mid December to mid January, when temperatures drop below -10 to -13°C. The fruit is then frozen and thawed, which dehydrates the fruit; hence the levels of sugars and acids are intensified. The amount of juice that can be extracted from frozen grapes is about one-fifth of the amount of juice that can be extracted from unfrozen grapes. To put it in another perspective, a whole wine can produce enough juice for one bottle of wine. But the same wine, but frozen, can only produce about one glass of icewine. Because of the intense labour put into the making of this type of wine (did I also mention grapes are harvested by hand during the winter time?), they are usually more expensive than red or white wines.

The finished product is described as intensely sweet, flavourful and fresh. The flavour can also be paired up with tropical fruit flavours like mango, peach and lychee. This is why icewine is known as “dessert in a glass”.

It is recommended to serve it between -10 to -12°C in a small liqueur glass, but it also works in a 9 oz. bowl or normal wine glass.

Here are some of the best know producers of Icewine in Canada: Inniskillin (Niagara Peninsula), Reif Estates (Niagara Peninsula), Pillitteri Estates (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Peller Estates (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Pelee Island Winery (Pelee Island, Lake Erie), Tinhorn Creek (British Columbia), Summerhill Pyramid Winery (British Columbia), and Ziraldo Estate Winery (Niagara).

So next time you make a trip to Niagara Falls, makes sure you pick up a bottle or two of icewine!

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