In a true Canadian harvest, icewine has become a trademark for the Great White North. Ontario and British
Columbia provide climates that allow wine producers to pick some of the best aged grapes in the warmer
climates while also allowing the grapes to get cold enough and freeze on the grapevines long enough to
arguably produce the world’s best tasting icewines.
Sampling some of the most common as well as the lesser-known grape varietals used to produce icewine, the Lifestyle team provides some insight on how these wines measure up against each other.
The most common varietal used in the production of icewine, Vidal or Vidal Blanc is a white grape varietal that reaches optimal growth in colder climates since it is able to retain high brix and acid levels.
With its ability to react well to changes in climate, Vidal continues to be the most widely produced form of icewine around the world, especially in Ontario and British Columbia.
Wayne Gretzky Estates 2005 Vidal Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
As a multi-gold medal winner with a liquid gold taste to match, this rare-tasting treasure raises the bar with an exceptional fruity taste and illustrious scent. Made from grapes harvested in the Niagara Peninsula during the winter, the sweet blend of apricot, mandarin orange and honey flavours balances perfectly with the grapes’ acidity. Naturally concentrated sugar from months of hanging on the vine is pressed with the frozen fruit, yielding intensely flavoured juice. Its rich taste makes it an enjoyable dessert on its own, or just right paired with nuts, dried fruits and strong cheeses. As a treat that keeps on giving, portions of proceeds from the Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery is donated to Gretzky’s foundation every year to help less fortunate children experience Canada’s national sport of hockey. — Arta Ghanbari
Peller Estates Signature Series 2004 ‘Oak Aged’ Vidal Blanc
This golden-yellow wine provides a fresh taste with pineapple, apricot and guava, with sweet floral aromas. The flavours of honey and pears are offset with a citrus twist.
Unlike Peller’s original Vidal, this wine has been aged in French oak barrels for four months, giving it more intensity with complex flavours.
With its higher acidity level, the sweetness of this wine is masked behind the strong taste, allowing it to be paired easily with food. For its balance of sweet and savoury taste, it can easily pair with fruity and sweet desserts as well as soft cheeses. — Veronica Boodhan
Inniskillin Sparkling 2008 Vidal Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
This sparkling wine makes an immediate and enticing first impression with its luminous golden colour and the lively scent of apricots, peaches and honey. On the palate, the CO2 bubbles have the pleasing effect of cutting the sweetness of the wine while adding a delicate vivacity. Good food pairings include pâté, fresh fruit and a variety of cheeses from blue to creamy brie. With its intriguing effervescence, it’s no wonder this wine from industry leader Bruce Nicholson was a Gold Medal winner at the 2010 Sélections Mondiales des Vins Canada. — Eva Lam
For a sweeter alternative to champagne or traditional sparkling wine, sparkling icewine can be an elegant addition that is a truly Canadian trademark.
There’s an interesting history behind its creation: Sparkling icewine was the product of an accidental creation by Konrad Ejbich, a Canadian wine writer, in 1988. Though Ejbich published his findings and challenged Canadian wineries to create their own, Ontario’s Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) would not approve the creation due to its use of carbonation. It was Inniskillin Wines that created the first VQA-approved sparkling icewine with its use of the charmat method — in which the wine undergoes secondary fermentation followed by bottling under pressure — to create the bubbly effect and taste.
Peller Estates Ice Cuvée VQA Niagara Peninsula
Even before enjoying a sip of this decadent sparking wine, its unique yellow colour and rich aroma will take your breath away. Both the taste and colour will remind you of the thick, lingering taste of Chardonnay and the fine bubbles in champagne. The empowering scent of apricot, yeast and ripe apple with hints of honey stays with you from the first sip to the last drop. The taste leaves flavours of tropical fruits and invigorating pink grapefruit. Made with handpicked Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in a traditional “méthode” process, this wine is best enjoyed with spicy Asian dishes, curry, seafood or salty appetizers before a meal. — Arta Ghanbari
This classic green grape varietal that produces some of the world’s most famous white wine is only enhanced when made into icewine. This varietal tends to be more widely produced in B.C., with limited quantities made into icewine.
Pillitteri Estates 2007 Chardonnay Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
Vibrantly gold in colour, this light-tasting Chardonnay icewine is packed with scents of apricot, peach and pineapple, coupled with lychee, lemon rind and a hint of almond. Every drop reveals the taste of mango, apricot, pawpaw and passion fruit, leaving your senses inundated. There’s just the perfect amount of stimulating acids, which makes for a lasting warm finish. This carefully made and fermented sweet yet subtly sour white wine goes perfectly with cheesecake and whipped cream, fruit or trifle. — Arta Ghanbari
Paradise Ranch Wines Whistler 2007 Chardonnay Icewine
This syrup-like, golden-yellow wine combines the concentrated fragrance of mango and banana with the flavour of sweet baked apples, reminiscent of a juice or nectar.
Awarded silver in the 2009 New World International Wine Competition, this wine pairs quite lovely with brie cheeses and sharp cheddars, as well as with pasta in cream-based sauce or risotto with vegetables, saffron and sage. — Melissa Silva
This white grape varietal originates from Germany’s Rhine region. The floral aroma has a higher acidity level than most wines. Because of its dry and sweet components, it is a popular varietal used in the production of icewine.
Riesling growing conditions are quite versatile, allowing it to be easily grown around the world. Both Ontario and British Columbia produce Riesling icewine.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2007 Riesling Icewine
Grown in Summerhill’s certified organic Kelowna vineyard, this icewine exhibits tropical fruit flavours enhanced with honey and citrus. It has a strong fruity aroma with a taste that is offset by its acidity.
This wine works well with fruit, desserts, cheese and mild-flavoured ice cream. — Veronica Boodhan
Inniskillin 2007 Riesling Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
A bottle of Inniskillin’s 2007 Riesling will fill your glasses with a bouquet of lemon and lime hints and crisp, tart flavours. Harvested at the height of Canada’s brisk winters, the grapes are picked from the vine only when the temperature drops to -10 C to make sure the grapes are properly frozen. The lavish nectar from the grapes is then vigilantly fermented to achieve the rich and distinctive taste of icewine. The natural acidity balances flawlessly with the sweet juice to make for an all-around, mouth-filling journey that begins with an alluring scent and ends with warmth in all areas touched by the wine. Enjoy this wine with fine cheeses, dessert, or on its own after a meal. — Arta Ghanbari
This dark, almost black grape varietal is known for producing some of the most powerful-flavoured red wines. Originating from France, this varietal is limitedly produced as icewine.
In comparison to Merlot, these varietals are some of the most rare in the production of icewine, and tend to carry a heavier price tag.
Pillitteri Estates Winery 2006 Shiraz Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
“Black forest cake,” proclaims the description on the label, and the senses are abuzz with excitement. The ruby-coloured wine is certainly no shrinking violet, making a statement at first sniff with a smoky, sharp nose. The taste is surprisingly light and sweet, with hints of candied cherry and spice. However, the wine comes full circle with a subtle bite at the end. This treat is best enjoyed chilled with cheeses and desserts. A Gold Medal winner and ranked second-best Syrah in the world at the 2008 Syrah du Monde wine competition in France. — Eva Lam
Wayne Gretzky Estates No. 99 2006 Shiraz Icewine VQA Niagara Peninsula
The lustrous sunset colour and complex aroma of apples, cherries and caramel set the stage for a unique taste experience. Heady flavours of strawberry jam, plum and honey are balanced by a hint of spice and lovely acidity. The overall effect is rich but not-too-sweet, making it perfect for pairing with dark chocolate, sweet fruits or sipped on its own. To borrow a phrase The Great One often elicited during his career in the rink: This ambitious offering shoots, and scores. A Bronze Medal winner at the Wine Access 2009 Canadian Wine Awards. — Eva Lam
CABERNET (Franc vs. Sauvignon) ICEWINE
Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon continue to reign supreme in the production of red wine. While they are similar, Cabernet Franc has a lighter appearance, giving it a rosier colour compared to the deep red of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Both wines, originating from France, are often blended to enhance the taste, giving it a more intense and complex flavour.
Cabernet Sauvignon’s growing conditions tend to be more versatile than Cabernet Franc, as it can easily be grown in a variety of different climates.
Inniskillin 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine
With Inniskillin icewines regarded as one of the world’s great wines, this Cabernet Franc combines a rich colour with a sweet and syrupy berry flavour, most notably strawberry.
Pairing nicely with chocolate or chocolate mousse and red fruit-based desserts, specifically strawberries and cream, this icewine is best served chilled with dessert, or after a fine dining experience. — Melissa Silva
These icewines are some of the other varieties that Ontario and British Columbia each produce. With these rarer types of icewine, people can expect a multitude of flavours, taking the experience of icewine to a whole other level.
Jackson-Triggs 2007 Grand Reserve Gewürztraminer
Although typically a white wine, this Gewürztraminer icewine displays a rosy blush tone. Exhibiting a fruity scent with its tropical fruit blend of lychee, guava, red grapefruit, papaya, honey and mango notes, they are well complemented with floral undertones. With its higher sugar levels, it exhibits a rich syrup-like taste that makes it an essential dessert wine. This Gewürztraminer differentiates itself from its competitors with its aromatic flavours.
With wineries in both Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake and B.C’s Okanagan Valley, Jackson-Triggs produces this icewine out of its Niagara Estate winery. To create the wine’s intensity and complexity, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel, preserving the vibrant flavours of the wine.
Despite its sweet fruit taste, this icewine can complement a variety of cheeses and desserts. — Veronica Boodhan
Inniskillin 2007 Discovery Series Tempranillo
This oak-aged red wine has a strong berry flavour with hints of strawberry and cherry. Tempranillo is a grape varietal that is mostly used in Spain’s Rioja wine region, producing some of the country’s most renowned wines. Inniskillin produces this wine in the Okanagan Valley, which is a beneficial climate for Tempranillo since it requires a cool climate to reach its peak. The grape varietal is thick-skinned and can ripen early, which makes it a perfect fit for B.C.’s wine regions.
For its strong fruity flavours, this icewine is best served as a dessert wine, either on its own or as the finale to a fine meal. — Veronica Boodhan
Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Icewine
This award-winning wine has the rich fruity aroma of strawberry, cherry, honey and apricots with oak and smoky hints to infuse the wine with a distinct spicy flavour. Summerhill uses organic Pinot Noir grapes from its certified organic vineyards in the Okanagan Valley.
With its diverse array of flavours and aromas this wine can pair well with strawberry shortcake, fruit, cheese or even with ice cream. — Veronica Boodhan
Reif Estate Winery 2008 Vidal Icewine – 375mL ($46.95 per bottle)
Inniskillin 2007 Vidal Icewine – 375mL ($49.95 per bottle)
Pillitteri Estates Winery 2004 Sparkling Vidal Icewine – 375mL ($60 per bottle)
Pillitteri Estates Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon – 375mL ($60 per bottle)