Inniskillin Riesling Icewine
We get it—it’s cold out. Our social media feeds are filled with screen shots of local temperatures from weather.com and photos of digital car thermometers. (Bring back the puppies, please!) If you think you’re cold, pity the poor ice wine grapes on Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, which remain on the vine until temperatures reach -8° C (17.6° F). The grapes have to be covered with nets so that hungry birds don’t get to them. Even as the nets are cut and the grapes are being harvested birds swoop down for one last try for a sweet winter snack. So if you think your walk to the office was bad today, consider for one moment the poor vineyard workers in Canada, Germany, and Austria who have to stand in a frozen vineyard, knee-deep in snow, fighting off ravenous birds while trying to wield pruning shears through heavy gloves.
When grapes are left on the vine past the normal time of harvest and then freeze, the sugars are highly concentrated, creating a much sweeter wine. Canada’s VQA—Vintner’s Quality Alliance—sets the regulations for making ice wine in the Okanagan and Ontario. Residual sugar has to be at least 100g/liter, so Canadian icewine is very sweet. However, well made icewine will also have high acidity that balances out the sweetness. Good pairings include foie gras, blue cheese, vanilla ice cream, and crème brulee.
Although icewine has been made in Germany and Austria since the 19th century, Inniskillin is credited with creating the international market for this style of wine. Today the slim bottles are a familiar sight in wine stores and duty free shops worldwide, and Inniskillin Icewine is found on lists at many of the world’s finest restaurants. In addition to its well-known Riesling and Vidal versions, the winery also produces Cabernet Franc and Sparkling icewine. The bottle we recently shared is from 2007, and it was glorious, adding more evidence that these wines, especially the Riesling, will age for 10 or more years. (The 2007 R/S is 242.9g/l). It will be easier to find a more recent vintage in your wine shop.
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2007 is luminous gold in the glass, with aromas of peach, lychee, and lemon blossom. It is full on the palate, with flavors of apricot, honey, and butterscotch. There is a beautiful burst of lemon drop candy on the finish.