One of the most unique wines available on the market, Icewine is certainly something that you’ll want to bring to your next dinner party or enjoy as part of your dessert. Typically crafted in countries that are traditionally known for having colder climates, Icewine is special for the way it’s produced and can have tasting notes ranging from tropical to caramelized fruits.

With Canada being one of the largest producers of Icewine, and the Niagara region being the recognized leader for the whole country, it’s definitely worth trying a bottle of this fabulous beverage. 

What Is Icewine?

Icewine is a type of dessert wine that has been made from frozen grapes while the grapes are still on the vine. The sugars found in the fruit don’t freeze while the water content does, so when it’s time to harvest the wine, winemakers press the frozen grapes and leave behind the water crystals. What’s left is a highly concentrated juice that makes for incredibly sweet wine. 

During Icewine season, which is usually between December and February, wineries will keep an eye on the weather and look for temperatures between a range of -8°C and -12 °C for harvesting. This temperature range will produce juice that has a 35 to 39 ° Brix, which is a unit of measurement that denotes sugar content. It usually takes around six hours for the grapes to be harvested and pressed, which usually results in it being an overnight job! 

history of icewine

Unlike other wines, Icewine is unaffected by “noble rot,” because the grapes are frozen. Noble rot, or botrytis, is a kind of fungus that many winemakers usually look for in their average wine as it adds sweetness along with more flavour. But, because the process for growing grapes for the purpose of Icewine is very different, noble rot is not possible, which sets it apart from the rest — both in-process and in taste. 

The first instance of Icewine having been created is believed to have been in the 1700s in Germany. A winemaker, after realizing the grapes had frozen, continued on the process of harvesting, pressing, and fermenting the grapes. The product became known as Eiswein (which is German for ice wine) and Germany became the leading producer of the product. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Icewine was introduced to Canada when German immigrants brought over the tradition. 

Because Canada has such an ideal climate for Icewine, it soon took off, and many wineries began introducing the new way of winemaking into their repertoire. Icewine is also a registered trademark in Canada, and the name can only be used by VQA approved products. 

What Does It Pair With?

Icewine’s flavour profile is unique, ranging from tropical fruit to strawberries to caramelized pears. It can be made with different varietals such as Cabernet Franc or Riesling which also impact the flavours, so it’s worth trying a few different bottles or looking for wineries that offer tastings. Due to its complex nature, you’ll find that there are many exciting pairing options that can suit a variety of different palates. 

Because Icewine is a dessert wine, it’s traditionally consumed after dinner either with dessert or a cheese plate. It pairs well with strong cheeses like Gorgonzola or Roquefort, or salty appetizers like a nice bowl of mixed olives. It’s also great with fruity desserts, like banana pudding, cheesecake with a berry compote, or a lemon tart. It’s wonderful all year round and simply requires about 15 minutes of chilling in an ice bucket before serving. You can use a regular white wine glass for serving, and the recommended serving size is around 1-1.5 ounces. 

Dessert wine refers to any wine that is sweet with higher alcohol content, not just wine paired with a sweet course or snacks. Icewine can be enjoyed at any point during a meal and is also superb by itself or in a cocktail. A simple yet delicious cocktail to try is a variation of a Kir Royale. By adding 1 ounce of Icewine to a glass of your favourite sparkling wine, you can enjoy the sweet flavours mixed with bubbles. 

Where Can You Find It?

Canada is one of the largest producers of Icewine in the world, with 75% of the Icewine produced in Canada coming from Ontario.

While the Niagara region produces the most of it, Icewine can be found in stores all over the country. If you live in Ontario, a great collection of Icewine can be found at the LCBO, local wine shops, and wineries. Henry of Pelham is a great example of a Niagara winery that is completely in love with the craft of Icewine and even offers tastings and tours. 

As mentioned earlier, if you’re interested in purchasing Canadian Icewine, make sure the bottle is VQA verified. Unfortunately, there’s a growing market for imitation Icewine because it has become such a popular and well-loved product. With imitation Icewine, the grapes are frozen artificially, sweetened with concentrate, and do not follow proper regulations.

Expand Your Palate

If you’re new to the world of wine or are looking to expand your already well-versed palate, Icewine is a great place to start. If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it’s understandable that you might be hesitant. But, if you pair it with the right food, like foie gras or pineapple upside-down cake, it will unlock a whole new world of flavour. Not only is it delicious and can be enjoyed all year round, it’s unique and a great conversation starter.

Support your local Canadian winery by checking out the different Icewine they have to offer. Henry of Pelham has a great selection of Icewine available online, and the bottles can also be shipped right to your door.  

Also Read: 10 Lesser-known Wine Destinations For Wine-Lovers


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