Icewine: A Canadian Delicacy

What is icewine?

Icewine is the magical gift made in the dead cold of winter after grapes have been frozen on the vine.

Icewine was first discovered in Germany in 1794. Winemakers used frozen grapes after a harsh winter. They were amazed at the sweet wine that was produced; in short, it was a delicious accident! Canadian wineries are certainly experts at this difficult yet rewarding process. Indeed, many Canadian wineries have won international awards by perfecting this sweet and luscious nectar.

Where is it produced?

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula are the two most famous Canadian areas for making prized icewines. Their climate conditions are perfect for icewine. First, the hot summer temperatures ripen the grapes for part of the year. Then, the extremely cold winters freeze the grapes until harvest. As a result, these unique climates create and maintain the high acidity of the grapes. This is necessary for the proper production of icewine. Most importantly the frozen grapes must be a result of nature’s seasonal changes and not artificially frozen to be deemed genuine Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) icewine.

VQA is a regulatory and appellation system that governs wines made in British Columbia and Ontario. This system guarantees the high quality, and authenticity of origin, for Canadian wines. Above all the VQA mark is the symbol of guaranteed high-quality wines.

How is it made?

Grapes are left on the vines until temperatures fall between -10°C and -13°C. Icewine producers take a big risk by leaving the grapes on the vines as they wait for these ideal temperatures. The grapes freeze and then thaw several times before harvest. This is due to the unpredictable Canadian winter. And then, when the temperature is right, the grapes must be carefully hand-picked. After being picked they are processed quickly to achieve optimum results.

When the grapes are left on the vine, they become dehydrated. This allows for the concentration of sugars and acids. As a result, the icewine’s flavours are intensified. When the frozen grapes are pressed, the water stays in the skin and forms ice crystals. Consequently this allows only a very small amount of precious juice to be extracted.

Icewine production requires ten times more grapes than traditional wine. In other words, if one vine makes one bottle of traditional wine, it may only make one glass of icewine. Consequently, this means that VQA icewines are more expensive.

How should icewine be enjoyed?

VQA icewines come in many varieties and flavours. Vidal and Riesling are some of the most popular varietals. Flavours can include apricot, peach, mango, melon, and lychee. Similarly, many other fruit flavours, as well as those with a nutty undertone, are prevalent in icewines.

Icewine does not need to be served alone. Pair it with strong cheeses and pâtes, or serve it as a dessert wine with fruit. Some chefs use it in dessert recipes; similarly, others may choose to use it in a cocktail. Try icewine with a spicy dish like curry if you are feeling adventurous!

Icewine is best served chilled, but not cold. In contrast to traditional wine, icewine is served in a small dessert glass or a shot glass, in a pinch! If you don’t drink the whole bottle it will last in the fridge three to five days. However, because icewine is so delicious it is unlikely that your guests will leave you with any leftovers!

King’s Court Estate Winery offers several VQA icewines including Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Ehrenfelser. Let our experts help you choose which icewine works best for your occasion, event, or menu.

Once you have enjoyed it, you won’t be able to stop talking about Canadian VQA icewine!

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