– updated January 4, 2024
Icewine propelled Canada onto the world’s wine stage nearly three decades ago and has become inextricably tied to the country’s winemaking heritage as it continues to garner global acclaim. Ever since Inniskillin won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Bordeaux’s Vinexpo wine fair in 1991, it’s become somewhat of a proud Canadian essential.
Made from grapes that have been left to freeze naturally on the vine, Ontario is a leading producer for obvious reasons, but also for its increasing global recognition when it comes to wine production.
On average, 800,000 litres of Icewine is produced annually and represents roughly 50 percent of Canada’s overall wine export business. Icewine production is regulated in Ontario under the VQA Act, meaning strict standards are monitored by VQA inspectors, from vineyard to the bottle. Rules cover grape varieties, harvest procedures, winemaking and testing before the wine is released. No wine may use the term “Icewine” on its label unless it is certified by VQA Ontario.
To produce Icewine, summers must be hot and winters must be cold and sharp. Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold enough to ensure an Icewine crop every year. Even Germany cannot produce an Icewine every vintage.
The majority of Icewine continues to be made from riesling and vidal grapes, with riesling producing a wine with more acidity than vidal. Other varieties used include gewürztraminer, cabernet franc, merlot, pinot gris, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
Perhaps you were fortunate to have been gifted a bottle of Ontario-made Icewine this past holiday season. If not, you’ll want to get one quickly as supplies tend to dwindle this time of year due to the high demand and very limited supply.
Niagara’s Icewine Festival, one of Canada’s largest wine celebrations, will embrace the winter magic once again this year. For three weekends in January, wine lovers, cocktail fans and foodies are sure to create sweet memories to last a lifetime, all while discovering the region’s renowned VQA Icewine and culinary scene through an outstanding collection of events.
Niagara Icewine Festival Discovery Pass holders can explore the heart of wine country on an unforgettable self-guided journey weekends throughout the month, from Jan. 12-28. Passes include either three or six unique tasting experiences from a list of over 30 wineries along Wine Country Ontario’s Wine Route for exclusive VQA Icewine and food pairings.
Below is a selection of 12 sampled Icewines, made by six different Niagara-based wineries: