Cold As Ice

Frozen, sweet grapes and sparkling wine have teamed up for a lovely drinking experience
Sparkling Ice Wine
Sparkling Ice Wine. Photo: Angela Szymczuk

It is no secret that Canada is the world’s largest producer of ice wines. Nestled in the Niagara region of Ontario are many vineyards that produce some of the world’s best ice wines. These wines tend to be sweet, like syrup, and are very flavourful. However, it was actually in Germany where ice wine was first discovered, during the late 1700s.

In the region of Franconia, there was an early frost. The farmers, who were also peasants, did not want the grapes to go to waste, so they decided to press the frozen grapes to see what happened. They were quite delighted with the sweet taste and referred to it as eiswein (ice wine). Since then, ice-wine production has continued, but in limited quantities, as consecutive days at cold temperatures (needed for ice-wine production) do not happen often.

In Canada, the first ice wine was created in 1972 in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Once its popularity caught on, vineyards in Niagara started to produce the wine. Lucky for us, we have the ideal climate in Canada to harvest multiple batches of grapes for ice-wine production.

While there are many beautiful kinds of ice wines on the market, some distillers are getting creative. The Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery has created whisky infused with ice wine. Even in Ireland, a whisky brand called Writers Tears has partnered with Inniskillin Wines, in Ontario, to create their version of whisky ice wine.

Then there is Peller Estates, who decided to combine sparkling wine and ice wine. This Niagara winery has been around for decades and is known for producing a vast variety of wines. They have produced a rather lovely creation called Signature Series Classic Ice Cuvée Sparkling, which comes in both white and rosé. I had the opportunity to try the white while I was visiting Niagara on the Lake, a few weeks ago.

Whoever decided to marry ice wine and sparkling wine is a genius. This particular blend is made with Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, with Vidal Icewine added (Vidal is a hybrid grape with a thick skin that makes it suitable for winter harvests). The ice wine definitely adds smoothness to the sparkling wine. And while it also adds sweetness to an already slightly sweet beverage, the strong flavours of the ice wine help bring out the flavours of the sparking wine. When you taste it, you get a very nice mouthful of honey, apricot, brioche, creamy strawberries, apples and a little bit of citrus.

Ice wine—a very delightful sparkling wine and an excellent choice if you are looking for something that is unique but does not stray too much from traditional sparkling wine.

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