HAILING FROM THE FROZEN VINEYARDS of Niagara, Canada to our sun-soaked African shores comes a truly rare and exquisite wine, Icewine.
Grape juice is extracted from frozen grapes harvested during the first deep freeze of the long Canadian winter, where the grapes slowly harden on the vine.
What makes this feat even more rare is that the heat of the summer (ensuring healthy, fully ripe grapes) needs to match up to the icy winter. The bunches are then night-harvested as they must be harvested at at least -8°C. Grape-pickers and winemakers gather at the witching hour, in the frosty dark as the clusters of rock-hard marbles are carefully and slowly liberated from the vine.
Icewine has been made since ancient times, but today is produced in limited quantities only by Germany, Austria and Canada. Canada is now the largest producer of Icewine in the world.
The production of Icewine is highly regulated and during these night harvests an official from the Wine Council of Ontario will come to play witness to the events as well as to make sure that everything is in accordance with the laws of this highly-prized local treasure.
The frozen grapes consist mostly of water, and when that freezes solid, what is left is an intense and concentrated nectar. In the vinification the fruit is delicately crushed to separate the ice shards from the liquid, producing tiny amounts. The resulting juice is concentrated and sweet yet balanced by a precise and thrilling acidity.
It’s this finely tuned balance and inherent purity that makes Icewine so very special. The acidity helps cleanse the palate and balance the sweetness, which makes it ideal as a pairing wine with many dishes, both savoury and sweet.
The ultimate conversation starter, Icewine lends itself to dinner parties, social gatherings and celebratory occasions as it is not only a talking point, but also in the way it delivers on taste with its concentrated flavour profile. It also has a refreshing lower alcohol than most other wines—meaning you can sip a bit more.
The Inniskillin range incorporates three different varieties for four wines, the Canadian classic Vidal; Gold Vidal (oak-aged); the traditional Riesling; and a ruby-hued Cabernet Franc.
The Vidal grape is a French hybrid and is optimal for making Icewine (thick-skinned it can withstand the icy Canadian winters). It is the most widely used grape in this category and is made in various styles: classic, oak-aged as well as sparkling. It imbues the wine with juicy, tropical flavours; while the citrus-toned Riesling offers more cut green apple and lemon freshness.
The Cabernet Franc is incredibly rare as it is quite difficult to make a red Icewine, the colour in red wines comes from contact with the skins, and when making Icewine, the skins are removed almost immediately after crushing, leaving just a ruby hue. The spicy red berry flavours of this wine are said to work harmoniously with anything chocolatey.
From Jackson-Triggs, with vineyards also located in the icy Niagara Peninsula, comes the Jackson-Triggs Reserve Vidal as well as the Jackson-Triggs Gewürztraminer. The former displays all those characteristic tropical notes of the Vidal grape with aromas of papaya, mango and apricot, balanced by a fine acidity and silky finish.
While the new release Gewürztraminer is super-aromatic with a bouquet of rose petals, litchi and stone fruit. Full of zip and verve on the palate, expect lively melon and citrus flavours.
Enjoy now, chilled in a white wine glass, or try your hand at an innovative cocktail; or… stock your cellar with these rare icy jewels. Icewine can be kept for decades and will develop, gaining beautifully in both flavour and texture.
Prices range from R750 to R1 500 a bottle.
Icewine Passion Fruit Cocktail
- 59ml Inniskillin Gold Vidal Icewine
- 1 scoop passion fruit sorbet or muddled frozen fruit
- 4 basil leaves
- Top up with soda
Glassware: Highball with crushed ice
Garnish: Basil leaf.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, shake, strain over fresh ice into a highball glass and garnish.