Icewine is renowned for its sweetness. It is a dessert style of wine that is very high in natural sugar and made from grapes that have frozen on the vine in winter, a process that naturally concentrates sugars and flavours. As Niagara is the Icewine-producing capital of the world, our local market has plenty of access to this liquid gold, and it can be a very popular Christmas gift in Ontario.
But what if you find Icewine just isn’t to your liking? Whatever are you going to do with that thoughtful gift you received? Never fear! Fortunately for those of you who don’t enjoy drinking this super sweet liquid dessert, there are a number of fantastic culinary applications for Icewine. So instead of treating it like a beverage, regard it as an ingredient in your cooking. Find here a suggestion for a three course meal you can make at home, complete with Icewine as a constituent in every dish.
Bitter Greens with Riesling Icewine Salad Dressing
Homemade salad dressings need to be comprised of three components to make the balance right: oil for body, vinegar for acidity, and something sweet for flavour. Take your favourite homemade salad dressing recipe and substitute the sweet ingredient (whether it be honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, etcetera) for Icewine. I recommend using Riesling Icewine which usually possesses flavours of citrus and tropical fruits. For your salad leaves I recommend using a bitter green like arugula as opposed to a lighter green like iceberg lettuce. Bitter greens will contrast well with the bright flavours and fresh acidity found in the Icewine.
Sautéed Salmon Glazed with Cabernet Franc Icewine
Icewine makes a great marinade and glaze for different meats. If you’re looking for something to do with a bottle of red Icewine, I recommend using it with a pink-fleshed fish such as salmon. Due to our cooler climate, Cabernet Franc is one of the most commonly grown red wine grapes in Niagara. It naturally ripens early, unlike other red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon which don’t grow as well here. So if you’ve been given a bottle of red Icewine for Christmas, chances are it was made from Cabernet Franc grapes. Cabernet Franc Icewine is known for having a flavour akin to strawberry jam. Use half a cup of Icewine for every 12 ounces of fish. Begin by marinating the fillet, flesh-side down, for at least 30 minutes. Longer is always better. Sauté the fillet slowly on a medium-low heat so that the tasty juices don’t evaporate out of the fish. When the flesh has started to change colour from sautéing, pour the remaining Icewine into the saucepan and reduce heat to low. Watch the Icewine thicken as the water evaporates away. Baste the fish regularly to add flavour and keep in moisture. Remove from heat when the desired firmness is reached and serve on a bed of puffy quinoa. Not into fish? Try using a white Icewine as a marinade and glaze for chicken breast or pork tenderloin instead.
Fresh Berries Soaked in Vidal Icewine
The vast majority of Icewine produced in Niagara is made from Vidal grapes. Vidal is a hybrid grape variety that is resilient in winter freezing. It possesses a thicker skin which prevents it from cracking open in cold weather, maintaining the integrity of the juice by locking it inside the fruit until it is pressed open after harvest. Vidal Icewine is known for its distinct honey and apricot flavour. To make the perfect desert to any meal, soak fresh berries (any berries will do!) in Vidal Icewine overnight. Spoon berries into a small serving dish and top with homemade whipped cream. What could be simpler? Mix it up next time by using fresh peach slices instead of mixed berries.
Michael Twyman – Sommelier and Niagara Wine Country Guide for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours and Bootleggers