Icewine: Intensely sweet and indulgent

This sweet dessert wine, traditionally made with white grapes, is now also made with red varieties, each with its own unique character. The grapes stay on the vine through autumn and dry into raisins. As winter arrives, the freeze-thaw cycle further dehydrates them, intensifying the sugar, acids and other components. The flavour of the juice is highly concentrated, making a complex wine with deep, rich nuances. Canada has made icewine into an international star. We’ve trademarked the term, and our Vintners Quality Alliance has created the most stringent regulations in the world for its production: it must be naturally produced (no artificial freezing); it must have a minimum Brix (sugar content) of 35 degrees; the alcohol must come from the grapes’ natural sugars; and the harvest must not start before Nov. 15. Why the exorbitant price tag and small bottle? When pressed, the frozen grapes produce miniscule amounts of juice. The yield is less than one-quarter of what would be produced by unfrozen grapes. 10 things you should know about icewine: 1. Icewine was discovered accidently in Franconia, Germany, in 1794. Vintners pressed frozen grapes they’d left on the vines for winter animal fodder and found that the resulting wine had a very high level of sugar. Late-harvest sweet wines were already prized in Germany, so by the 1800s, Eiswein was being made intentionally in the Rheingau region. 2. Icewine is made in Canada, Germany, Australia, Austria, New Zealand, Israel and California. Those made using freezers are often called “icebox wines.” 3. The first Canadian commercial icewine was made in 1978 by Hainle Vineyards in British Columbia. Ontario followed...

Gold is Made in the Cold

Debbie Trenholm Savvy Company How does Icewine differ from other wines? Throughout the growing season, winemakers decide which grapes to leave on the vines long after the regular harvest is complete and wait for Mother Nature to turn them into gold - icewine grapes that is. The magic number is the air needs to hit -8 degrees Celsius or colder. At this point, the frenzy begins! The frozen grapes can be picked (by law it must reach -8 degrees in order to be classified as an Icewine). Some wineries leave the grapes on longer (such as -10 degrees). The trick with Icewine is that winemakers never know when during the winter -8 degrees will come. This year -8 degrees came to Niagara in early January. Winemakers also need a long period of time at that cold temperature to pick (some wineries have many acres of vineyards with frozen grapes) and crush the grapes. In 2001 I was called on to pick in an Icewine harvest. While staying in Niagara doing some consulting work, I received a phone call at 11:30 one night from Ann Sperling - Winemaker at the time at Malivoire. What an opportunity! I bundled up and headed out! When you think of a vineyard often thoughts of lush green comes to mind. But in January, the reality is that many grapes had fallen off (these are no good), and the bare dead vines set against the stark whiteness of the snow was very dramatic. Shadows of people were cast from the head lamps of the tractor going up and down the rows of grapes being picked...