Icewine, or dessert wine, actually got its start as an accident in 19th century Germany. Grapes were left on the vine through a treacherous winter, and the vintners planned on leaving the grapes for animals to take during the freezing temperatures. Interestingly, after sampling a frozen grape they discovered an intense sweetness that was later captured through the winemaking process.
This was the birth of the Icewine, which eventually made its way to Canada in the late 20th century. Now, Niagara vineyards have become world-renowned for their frozen treasure.
What Is Icewine?
Niagara’s Icewine comes from grapes that are left on the vine into the winter, where the water contents of the grape freeze when temperatures get below -7°C. After being picked and pressed, the juice yielded from the frozen grapes has a higher concentration of sugar. The three to six-month fermentation process turns the sweet juice into a wine with lower alcohol content and the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.
Grapes like Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc are favoured in the production of Icewine. Vidal is popular in the Niagara region especially, with its thick skin protecting the juices from harsh winters and its acidity producing the signature intense fruit flavours synonymous with Niagara Icewine.
Icewine Taste and Pairings
Icewine is commonly referred to as dessert wine because of its notable sweet flavour. Icewines most often possess the rich aroma of citrus and tropical fruits, with hints of honey and the like. These complementary flavours allow the wine to pair well with fruit-based desserts or cheesecakes. Dessert wines can also enhance charcuterie, pairing well with savoury meats and rich cheeses like Gorgonzola or Parmigiano Reggiano.
Icewine in Niagara
Icewine has come to be known as Niagara’s frozen treasure because of the perfect climate conditions of the region. Warm summers are needed to grow the grapes, followed by reliably cold winters that can freeze that water inside the grapes at the correct pace and temperature. The area surrounding the Great Lakes is also where Vidal grapes can grow in large quantities. These two advantages allow Niagara to be the prime location for producing Icewine.
Some of our favourite stops to make on our Niagara wine tours for Icewine are:
Reif Estate Winery
Next time you find yourself in Niagara during the winter months, Niagara Vintage Wine Tours will guide you through Niagara’s finest Icewine vineyards. Contact us today to book your Icewine experience lead by one of our Wine Smart Guides.