Developing Vidal Icewine began with Jedean-Louis Vidal’s vision for his new Vidal hybrid. This grape started as a work-horse in the distillation district of Cognac. “Cognac is made from the most innocuous of grape varieties. The leading one by far is Ugni Blanc. This grape produces enormous yields, resulting in a thin, high acid wine barely palatable on its own. Distillation changes everything, and a high acid wine is ideal for distillation as acidity contributes to the brandy’s structure.” (McNeil)
JL Vidal was thinking of a high volume, high acid grape. He was not thinking of a true blue blood varietal. Vidal Blanc is not a vinifera variety.[pullquote align="full" cite="The Ice House Winery" link="" color="#511422" class="" size=""] Vidal Icewine used Vidal Blanc grapes; a hybrid variety. Jean-Louis Vidal’s original concept was to produce a grape variety to provide lots of commercially viable wine for lots of commercially viable distillation.[/pullquote]
It is difficult to measure the impact of Vidal Blanc in Cognac. Apparently, other hybrids – most notably Villard Noir in the south of France - were a victim of their own success. They were so prolific and heavily planted they were blamed for “The Wine Lake” in Europe. In 1977 all hybrids were legislated out of production in France. (AOC 1977.)Jean Louis was spared this insult as he died the previous year. He may not have been aware of the Vidal plantings in North America. At the time of his death he had not seen his grape move into centre stage in Niagara where it has become the King of Hybrids for Vidal Icewine. Internationally, Northern Ice Vidal Icewine from The Ice House Winery is a Monde Selection Grand Gold Winning wine. Pretty amazing for a grape that started out as a workhorse.