VOL 1 | ISSUE 2
Fallsview Entertainment District
Niagara Falls, Canada
By Sandra Ozkur
This month’s wonder: “What is the big deal about Icewine and why is it so expensive?” I’ve worked in the wine industry for many years and will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about wine. Well let’s see, how much would you charge if you had to go out in the middle of the night at -10 degrees to pick frozen grapes for 8 hours??? I’ve tried it and believe me, you couldn’t pay me enough to do it more than once. Yet every year people are eager to take that call, jump into their snowsuits and head off into the vineyard. Why? Because it’s an adventure that can only be experienced in Canada, and people come from all over the world to be a part of it. Canada is the largest producer of Icewine and nobody can match us in quality. The funny thing is that foreigners seem to love Canadian Icewine more than Canadians! I was in Panama this summer and was stunned to see Inniskillin Icewine at the Duty-Free shop and the shopkeeper was totally enamored with the stuff! So really what is it that makes Icewine so special? The answer is that it is rare. Very few countries can produce Icewine and none as well as Canada. This is proven by all the competitions won by Canadian wineries. Secondly, there is a lot of expense and risk in producing the stuff. The farmer needs to leave the grapes hang on the vine long past regular harvest, waiting for the perfect temperature. During that time the grapes continue to ripen and dehydrate and develop their unique taste profile. A lot of the fruit is lost to rot or to birds or they simply fall off the vine like an over-ripe apple. If the farmer is lucky, the temperature will dip down low enough early in December so that he won’t have to be out picking at Christmas time but I know several grape growers who regularly miss Christmas dinner. Global warming hasn’t been a friend to the industry either. The temperature fluctuations are brutal on the berries. At least three days of consistent freezing temperatures of -8 degrees are needed to harvest the grapes and this may not be enough to get the entire crop off. Last year it froze for a few days in December and then not again until February, by that time the grapes had deteriorated in quality and produced very low yields. When the perfect weather finally arrives, the grapes are picked at night to prevent melting and then taken in for crushing. Because the berries have to remain frozen, it usually means that the work has to be done outside. Icewine requires special hydraulic presses that are strong enough to crush the frozen berries. When the thick concentrated juices finally ooze out of the grape it barely produces more than 2 drops per grape! Not a great return on your investment! So now you know why it costs so much. In reality cost per serving is about the same as regular wine because you can get approximately 20- 1oz servings out of a 375ml bottle of Icewine for around $60.00, where as a bottle of regular wine at $15.00 will only give you 5 servings which calculates to about $3.00 per serving for both wines! Grapes are like children, they are temperamental, and each one has its own personality so each grape variety presents its own challenge. But once you figure out what makes each varietal perform, the finished wine will reward you with a taste sensation that can only be described as sublime. One taste of this sweet nectar and you are hooked. Be sure to serve your Icewine well chilled and in a tulip shaped glass in order to capture the aromatics of the wine, the bouquet is half of the enjoyment. Notice the exquisite diversity of aromas that waft out of that glass, (don’t forget to swirl). Icewine made from white grapes such as Vidal will smell like peaches, honey and lychee fruit. Riesling and Chardonnay will have hints of lemon drops and melon. Red Cabernet Franc Icewine will have intense strawberry and rhubarb notes where you can smell essences of black cherry and raspberry in Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine. The flavors in Icewine are intense, complex and well balanced, not syrupy. Roll it around in your mouth, savour this fruity, thick and unctuous liquid. Experience a burst of flavour that’s sensual and exotic. It coats your mouth with a layer of mouthwatering euphoria and leaves you salivating for more. It slides easily down your throat leaving a lasting trail behind. There are now several varieties from which to choose. Every year wine makers experiment with different grapes to see if they can produce something new and unusual. You will find red, white, sparkling and blends. Make use of Icewine regularly-no longer is it a special occasion drink, this unique wine is being used in desserts and main courses as well as in cocktails, martinis and Champagne.