The Vidal Icewine history begins with a scientific revolution. In the mid 1800’s, two men, one aboard the HMS Beagle and one in Germany were working independently of one another and on different things. Yet together they revolutionized the way we think about nature and our role in it. They changed everything. They even created a new industry – hybridization. And this had a huge effect on the Vidal Icewine history.
On board the Beagle Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was evolving his theory of evolution, natural selection, survival of the fittest. His ideas were scientifically, morally and religiously earth shattering. Importantly it implied that we, as humans, are or can be involved in the evolutionary process. We can affect and influence nature.
While in Germany Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884), much less dramatically was working with peas. As a simple Friar he was not really recognized for his work until after his death. He is now considered the founder of the science of genetics and his work is referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance.
He discovered that, genetically, if you cross this plant with that plant you get something different. From there it was not a big leap to think of crossing plants increasing crop yields, disease resistance or plant hardiness.
So the revolution began. We had the will and new ways to influence nature and ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’ (Captain James T Kirk USS Starship Enterprise). Yet the grape industry had no need to go anywhere. All was right in the world. Wine was wine. Europe was Europe. North America was North America. Hybridization of grapes or crossing this variety with that that variety was not necessary. Until the history of Vidal Icewine began. Then as necessity is the mother of invention, the necessity was called Phylloxera (Rice, 2004)The new science exploded trying to solve the disaster. Men like Albert Seibel (1844-1936) worked and produced over 16,000 new hybrids. A Texan, Thomas Volnay Munson (1843 – 1913) joined the fight and, with many others they won. The grape and wine industries of Europe were restored. With the success of controlling the disease the ideas of hybridization, use of rootstock and cloning continued with new applications. Albert’s son Bertille and his father in law Victor Villard created hybrids such as Seyval Blanc and Villard Noir.
One of the many hybrids created was Vidal or Vidal Blanc or Vidal 256 - a cross of Uni Blanc (Trebbiano) and Rayon d’Or (Seibel 4986) by Jean Louis Vidal (1880-1976). Arguably Vidal is the greatest hybrid every created. Although it was not Jean Louis intention; his hybrid went on to achieve wine success in the Niagara Peninsula. The Vidal Icewine history has led it to become one of the most famous wines in the world. Vidal Icewine is the flagship of all Canadian winemaking, the king of VQA Icewine - the most complex and intense wine in the world.