It's Time for Icewine

A glass of red Icewine and white Icewine in a snowy vineyard with ice around the rim of each glass

Despite enjoying a mostly mild winter, there have been a few days when frost has blanketed our windows, frigid temperatures have forced us to bundle up like that kid in A Christmas Story, and howling winds have caused serious debate on whether going outside to get the mail can be put off for another day – or month.

To us that means one thing: it’s Icewine season.

About 60 wineries across Ontario – in Prince Edward County, Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore & Pelee Island -- produce Icewine. 

To celebrate the annual harvest, wineries across Niagara throw a month-long party that will see 27 wineries throwing open their doors to teach the public all there is to know about the wine that landed Canada on the serious wine map more than 40 years ago. 

It’s no wonder there’s such hoopla surrounding the harvest.  Making Icewine is not for the faint of heart: everything from bad weather, to pests and animals, to disease & rot can ruin a winery’s crop (and income). Not to mention it’s an expensive and laborious undertaking.

Once it’s cold enough (as in, –12°C cold enough), winemakers are out, often in the dead of night to pick the frozen crop largely by hand.  By this time, the grapes are so withered, one entire vine will only produce enough juice for one glass of Icewine.  For regular table wine, a vine can produce about a bottle. Needless to say, to make Icewine, it helps to be a bit of a risk taker to endeavour in such a business.

Thankfully, many do – and their efforts have made Canada a world leader in Icewine production. It’s become so wildly popular that connoisseur's are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a bottle, though it is possible to find a good selection for as low as $40 a bottle in Ontario. 

Good Icewines are rich & luscious in flavour with pineapple, peach lychee, apricot, ginger and spice with racy acidity to keep them from being too cloying.  They’re delicious on their own, but lovely when paired with blue cheese, foie gras, roasted nuts and custard style desserts.

My sister, Courtney (L) and me at the Icewine festival in 2012

If you’re still wondering what the big deal is, here’s a few cold, hard facts:

This blog was first published on thewinesisters.com in 2012 and has been updated for clarity. 

 

 

 

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Erin did a fantastic job with our group. We all really enjoyed the day. I have already recommended The Wine Sisters for my company events, as it was such a great experience for us.
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