When temperatures drop below -8°C, most growers know that whatever is left on the tree, vine or garden is no longer useful—except for grapes. When the temperature hits that magical number, it’s all hands into the vineyard for grape picking.
BC is well known around the world for its delicious and unique icewines. And because it relies on Mother Nature to cooperate, some years are better than others.
How It All Began
Long ago, in the 18th century, a
German winemaker didn’t get his
grapes harvested in time. The temperatures plummeted and the
grapes froze on the vine. After all his hard work he couldn’t bear to leave them there, so he harvested them and tried to make wine out of them. Much to his delight, and the delight of everyone who tasted his Eiswein, it was delicious!
20th Century Icewine
In the 1960s, other wine regions started making their own icewines. Then, in 1974, the Okanagan’s Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery made Canada’s first icewine. It was a hit and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) has very strict rules when it comes to creating icewine. There must be documentation that the grapes were harvested when air temperatures were below the magical -8°C. There also cannot be any artificial cooling to get the grapes to yield their sweet, frozen goodness. Winemakers cannot add sweetener of any kind to the wine either. There are only one or two dozen wineries in BC that are able to create this delicious dessert wine.
So Many Ways to Enjoy
Icewine is best when chilled, usually to 5°C. One of my favourite ways to enjoy icewine is in a two-ounce dark chocolate shot glass. Many wineries sell them in their shops, and you can also buy them at specialty stores and online. This is a sipping wine, much like a port or sherry, so a two-ounce pour is more than enough.
Pairing icewines is fairly simple. Strong cheese, nuts and fruits pair wonderfully with this sweet treat. Go for a cheese that is naturally savoury and a little salty—try a nice blue cheese or a hard cheese. The stronger the flavour, the better it goes with icewine.
Should your tastes lean towards salty, try your icewine with a delicious black olive tapenade or an antipasto. Smoked salmon and duck confit also pair well. For a cool experience, try your icewine with a chilled watermelon soup.
Whether you like your icewine on its own or paired with savoury, salty or spicy foods, you are sure to enjoy it.