With the current heat wave you’re probably not thinking about Icewine – the delicious nectar of frozen grapes harvested in the night in the dead of winter. But while Icewine is the product of frigid temperatures we’d rather not be reminded of right now, it is a drink that has many adaptations for hot weather enjoyment. Before we get to that though, let’s learn a bit about this wondrous wine.
What is Icewine?
Icewine is produced from grapes that have been left on the vine after the fall harvest. When temperatures dip to -8ºC (or lower) the frozen grapes are handpicked and pressed immediately, while still frozen, to produce a wine highly concentrated in natural sugars and acidity. To produce Icewine, summers must be hot and winters must be cold and sharp, something that Ontario experiences most years. "Icewine" is a registered trademark in Canada and can only be used by producers who are VQA-approved.
Why is Icewine so expensive?
1) The production of Icewine is risky as the fruit left on the vines after the fall harvest becomes vulnerable to rot, winds, hail, hungry birds and animals.
2) Icewine involves a lot of labour, with a trained workforce that must be able to go out in the middle of the night at temperatures below -8°C to pick the frozen grapes by hand.
3) Production is very limited as it takes about 3-3.5 kilograms of grapes to produce one 375-millilitre bottle of Icewine; the same amount of grapes would produce six to seven times as much table wine.
So now that you know some facts about Niagara’s most famous wine, let’s talk about what you can do with it in these sultry days of summer.
With its lush texture and intense palate of honey, marmalade and apricot, Icewine is the perfect ingredient to add richness, layers of complex flavours and a touch of sweetness to cocktails. You can find refreshing recipes here: https://www.winerack.com/Article-5-Cocktails-Inniskillin-Vidal-Icewine
Yes, you read that right: your childhood treat comes of age! If you are planning a visit to Niagara this summer you will notice a number of wineries offering these frozen treats. Trust me when I say this is a huge step up from the oddly blue-flavoured syrup of our 7-Eleven pasts…
Icewine and Ice Cream
From adult slushy to adult ice cream sundae…sometimes it is good to be a grown-up. If you like a summer fruit-based ice cream like peach or banana, class it up with some Vidal Icewine drizzled on top. For berry ice creams or my go to, chocolate, try a Cabernet Franc Icewine. Cue your taste buds for extreme happiness.
Many Niagara wineries have Icewine tours and tastings throughout the year, so if you are a fan of this sweet treat, head out to wine country and find your favourite to enjoy in a cocktail, as part of dessert or just on its own.
Anjana Viswanatha [Sommelier CAPS, CMS] is the founder and principal of Wednesday Night Wine (www.wednesdaynightwine.ca), a wine instructor at George Brown College and is the Marketing Manager for Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake (www.winieriesofniagaraonthelake.com, @niagarawine on Twitter and Instagram, @wineriesofniagaraonthelake on Facebook). Get in touch with Anjana: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Instagram @wednesdaynightwine.