Icewine is a world-renowned style of wine that can only be crafted under specific conditions. Temperatures have to be a precise -8 to -10 Celsius. Even one degree warmer or cooler, and it’s not icewine.
Although it’s made in Canada’s Niagara and Okanagan wine regions, icewine remains a bit of a mystery to some Canadians. Icewine in the bottle looks distinctly different from a merlot or a chardonnay. Does that mean it should be stored differently? Drank from a different style of glass? Does it pair well with chocolate or red meat?
“Many people assume icewine to be too sweet for their palate – perhaps comparing icewine to the sweetness of maple syrup”, says Scott McGregor, Winemaker at Lakeview Wine Co., a division of Diamond Estates Wine & Spirits.
“In fact, this is not the case. Great icewine has a delicate balance of sweetness and acidity, with concentrated flavors and fantastic pairing opportunities.”
Making icewine is a detailed and complex process that starts during harvest when the winemaker decides which grapes are going to be left on the vines until winter’s deep freeze. And there they stay until late December or January. When exactly they get picked is determined by Mother Nature.
When the precise outdoor temperature is reached, the grapes will freeze solid. Once that happens they’ll be hand-picked and pressed while frozen to extract a small amount of sweet, concentrated nectar. Grapes from the icewine harvest typically yielding about 15% of what those grapes would have produced had they been picked during the earlier table wine harvest. (Hence the reason for the higher price.)
Following the unique harvesting process, icewines get fermented and aged the same as any other table wine.
Recently, one of Scott’s creations – the Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Franc Icewine won a Gold Medal and Best Value distinction at the 2017 InterVin International Wine Awards. Not only did this Icewine score highly in the Red Icewine category – it also received top honors with “Best Dessert Wine” in the show– being among the top four scores of over 1200 entries from around the world.
Scott answered some common questions about Icewine:
1. How do I store my Icewine?
Icewines will keep for several years stored in the right conditions — on a slant to keep the cork wet, away from vibrations and with a consistent temperature around 12-15°C. But as with any table wine, not all icewines will benefit from aging, and that all depends on the varietal selected. Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot icewines should be enjoyed while still young, while something like a Riesling will age nicely. Once the bottle is opened, you should enjoy it within three to five days.
2. How do I serve Icewine?
Icewines are ideally enjoyed chilled between 10-12°C so if you are taking it out of the cellar it may need some time in the fridge. But it is finicky about temperature. Too warm and it will lose its crispness; too cold and it cuts the aroma. Due to how sweet and rich an icewine is, about two ounces per glass should suffice.
3. When do I pour it?
There is a stereotype that icewine is a dessert wine and should be held to the end of the meal. And while it is great as a dessert, it also matches well with seafood or other main course dishes that involve something caramelized.
4. What kind of glass is best?
Ditch the skinny dessert glasses. To fully enjoy the aromas of icewine, use a standard white wine glass that will allow the wine to breathe and give you space to swirl the wine before enjoying it.
Pro tip: Chill the wine glasses in the fridge for 10 minutes before pouring the icewine in.
5. Do I have to drink it straight?
Absolutely not. A splash of icewine is a great addition to a cocktail or to add a little something extra to a glass of sparkling wine.
6. What should I pair it with?
If you are enjoying your icewine with dessert, the first rule is you don’t want the dessert to be sweeter than the icewine. If you have a white, enjoy it with fruit-based desserts while red icewine is exquisite with dark chocolate. They also pair well with a variety of cheeses — blue-veined, triple cream, goat cheese, washed rind cheeses, aged cheeses, salty parmesan. If pairing with a main course, go spicy — Thai, Indian, Mexican or Creole. It’s a nice balance to the sweetness of the wine and may help cool off a burning palate.
Find out more about Lakeview Wine Co. by visiting their website.