Recently I have had a lot of people asking me about ice wine(s.) How it is made, where it comes from, and what, if any, rules or regulations apply to this exquisite winter-time wine. So, in response I thought I would explore the wonderful and frozen world of ice wines in this, the first blog post in an upcoming 3-part blog series.
Where Did Ice Wine Come From?
Like many inventions, ice wine was originally discovered in Germany, somewhere between the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s by a fortuitous mistake: a wine grower left the grapes on the vine for too long while he was away and they frozen. Not wanting to lose the harvest, however, he decided to use the grapes— lo’-and-behold, ice wine was born.
The Evolution Of Ice Wine
What the winemakers noticed was that the grape produced an intensely sweet must (juice). They turned this into a new type of sweet wine, “Eiswein,” which later came be known colloquially as “ice wine.”
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s ice wine came to Canada. The Inniskillin Winery, in Niagara, Ontario, is noted as the first wine producer to offer Canadian ice wine for sale. The Hainle Vineyard, and the Estate Winery in Peachland, Okanagan, however, was the first vineyards in Canada to actually produce an ice wine. Inniskillin, however, not to be outdone, brought Canada to the international scene with their 1989 Vidal ice wine, which won the Grand Prix d’Honneur (best ice wine) prize at Vinexpo. Inniskillin ice wine has gone on to receive notable praise in the years since.
Ice Wine Today
By the early 2000’s Canada has become known as the world’s largest producer of wine. German ice wine is still produced in large quantities, but changes in climate in some of the areas in the 80’s has either reduced the harvests, or halted them all together.
In the States, there are some up-and-coming regions that are producing some well-received ice wines. These regions are the Pacific Northwest, New York, and Michigan.
Ice Wine Continues
If you have never tried an ice wine, or even if it has just been a while, pick one up the next time you’re at the wine store for a reunion of taste with a meal or appetizer. We’re actually going to look at food pairings for ice wines later on in this series on ice wines, but coming up next in this series we’re going to first take a look at the very strict procedures which govern the production of ice wine.
Stay tuned for Ice Wines Part 2: The Making Of Ice Wine