Despite being Canada’s signature wine internationally, few Canadians drink icewine on a regular basis
Canada has very strict regulations when it comes to the production of icewine and by international agreement; Germany, Austria and the US follow those regulations. Canada though remains the top producer of icewine.
For the production of icewine, grapes must be frozen naturally on the vine to -8 °C for a period of at least 8 hours. Most producers often wait until temperatures reach 10 to 12 °C.
Grapes are harvested very early in the morning while it is still dark and cold. Once picked the grapes are immediately pressed while still frozen. No sugars are added and the concentrated must is fermented at cool temperatures to retain purity of aroma.
When pressed the grapes yield approximately 15 % of the juice that would normally be extracted in regular wines.
Thus, a high volume of grapes are required to produce a small amount of wine and there is always a risk of losing a crop to mild winter temperatures. Icewine is usually sold in 375 ml or 200 ml bottles.
A minimum of 100g/L of residual sugar is necessary to produce an intensely aromatic, deliciously sweet wine with notes of honey and tropical fruits. Alcohol usually sits around 9.5 to 10.5 % abv (alcohol by volume).
Most icewine is made in Ontario, and the hybrid Vidal grape is commonly used as the grape can withstand very cold temperatures. Riesling is the preferred grape in BC. The first commercially sold icewine came from Inniskillin in 1984.
Canada’s icewine is sought all over the world and often brought home as souvenirs from Canada by tourists. A combination of risk, labor-intensive winemaking and regulations make it difficult to find an inexpensive icewine.