Icewine Buyer's Guide

The cool facts on Canadian Icewine

January 17, 2021

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.

Read Also: A Conversation with Bruce Nicholson – Icewine’s coolest winemaker

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.

Icewine Festival

Photo courtesy of Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake: Typically in January, the Icewine village in Niagara-on-the-Lake would be packed with people.

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.

Typically, with the Niagara Icewine Festival covering three weekends in January, this would be the best time to experience, indulge and savour this treasured treat. However, this year a visit to historic Niagara-on-the-Lake in January will not be possible. But wineries and festival organizers still plan to pay homage to this rare and exquisite gift from Mother Nature.

All month long, participating Niagara wineries will be offering exceptional Icewine themed wine packages for direct delivery and virtual experiences that can be enjoyed at home. It’s best to check with your favourite producer and find out what they specifically have planned, but some of the more official events – for a small fee – are listed here.

Below is a selection of 12 sampled Icewines, made by six different Niagara-based wineries:

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