So you want to know; What is Icewine?
People often ask "What is Icewine?" The origin Icewine has its cherished myths. Some say, at the end of the 18th century, German farmers accidentally discovered Icewine after trying to save their frozen grapes. Folklore has it that a small German village was surrounded by the enemy and could not pick their crops. When the troops left because of the cold winter weather, the villagers picked and pressed their grapes and called the delicious nectar “Eiswien”.
Today, making Icewine is a Canadian game for the Wineries Niagara region. We may not have invented Icewine, but we have perfected it. Canada's Icewine Niagara region has the long, warm summers and freezing cold winters that create the ideal conditions for Icewine.
At The Ice House Winery, we make Northern Ice™ by leaving our grapes on the vines well into winter to allow Mother Nature to cultivate the grape's flavour complexity as it ripens.
The critical season for Icewine is not Mother Nature’s freezer (-8 C for harvesting) but rather her refrigerator. Cold but not freezing temperatures in November and early December is when the mysterious and magical flavour transformation occurs.
The Vidal grape has a naturally late season maturation and tough resilience which makes it the perfect Icewine variety. Vidal can consistently “hold” on the vine, year in and year out, developing the top notes of apricot, peach and lychee with the underlying flavours of butterscotch, caramel and honey awaiting the unpredictable deep freeze. Vidal is the steadying partner in an otherwise nerve wracking winemaking experience.
Northern Ice Cabernet Sauvignon is a "Rare Red" Icewine with Wineries Niagara this grape requires higher maintenance than Vidal and is not consistently available. Its rich raspberry, plum and cranberry notes which Mother Nature develops are worth the constant care.
At minus eight degrees Celsius, the snow and ice-covered bunches are hand-picked, often in the dark of night. While still naturally frozen, the grapes are rushed to our century-old winery, where they are pressed frozen. The juice, now highly concentrated, is transferred to state-of-the-art tanks and fermented and aged under the watchful eye of Jamie until it’s ready for bottling.
Through patience and care, Northern Ice™ is magically transformed into a range of vibrant, jewel toned liquids, each with a complex, elegant taste, unrivalled anywhere in the world; making The Ice House Winery the "darling" of Wineries Niagara.
[pullquote align="full" cite="The Ice House Winery" link="" color="#511422" class="" size=""]With Vidal, nuances of peach, apricot lychee nuts, caramel butterscotch and honey develop. Cabernet Sauvignon showcases fruit notes of raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and plum.[/pullquote]
Icewine grapes are picked when they are frozen! Icewine Grape Picking is a process that Jamie explains to guests when they visit The Ice House Winery and sample Northern Ice Premium Icewine and The Ice House Slushies. Here is how Jamie explains the magical transformation that happens before the Icewine Grape picking begins and the secret to what is Icewine.
A 3-time winner of the Monde Selection Grand Gold Medal, Northern Ice is a toasting style of Premium Icewine recognized as a worldwide favourite. Paired with highly seasoned appetizers or tapas such as Indian and Mexican food, this elixar complements these intense and lasting taste experiences, creating a perfect pairing.
For the adventurous wine lover, Northern Ice provides a balanced, intense up front complex fruit flavour which can be added to a simple wine or alcohol to create amazing cocktails. If you like The Ice House Slushies, you are going to love playing winemaker with Northern Ice.
The production of authentic Canadian Icewine is risky. At The Ice House Winery in Niagara, Jamie must leave his selected Icewine grape vineyards unharvested and wait for winter to set in. The fruit left on the vine after the normal fall harvest is vulnerable to rot, ravaging winds, hail, hungry birds and animals.
The intense labour makes Icewine expensive. The Icewine grapes must be netted to prevent the grapes from the windy and snowy climate and the Starling birds. In order to ensure that the grapes are harvested when frozen solid, a trained workforce must be available to go out into the vineyards when temperatures hit below -8°C or 15°F to pick the frozen grapes. Typically this work lasts through the night when it is coldest and the grapes must be pressed immediately while they are still frozen.
Yields are small. It takes about 3.5 kilograms of Riesling grapes or three kilograms of Vidal grapes to produce one 375-millilitre bottle of Icewine. The same amount of grapes would produce six to seven times as much table wine as Icewine.
The Ice House Winery has discovered the magic of Icewine and many magnificent ways to appreciate it. Only Mother Nature can transform Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes left on the wine into luscious complexities of fresh fruit nuances that are then picked when frozen to collect this magical, intense wine.
The early Icewines were classified as dessert wines and their intense overall impact of sweet fruit flavour was enjoyed as a replacement for dessert. Later food pairings included Icewine as the wine of choice with a range of delectable desserts.
In 2005, Jamie Macfarlane set out to create a new “toasting style” of Icewine, one with a higher acidity level to create a more crisp and refreshing profile that would be best enjoyed with highly flavoured appetizers and food pairings.
The Ice House Specialty of Northern Ice as a N’Icewine Slushie was born out of Karen and Jamie’s desire to create a simple Icewine cocktail to serve to visitors at the winery. Much to many people’s surprise The Ice House Slushie has incredible universal appeal that encourages visitors to enjoy the art of blending Icewine with ice cubes, wine or spirits. The N’Icewine Slushie’s moderate overall impact of flavour delivery is balanced, complex and provides a more appealing way to serve this concentrated wine.