Although it has been around for centuries, ice wine has become extremely popular as of lately and ice winery tours have been filling up with interested tourists who want to get their hands (and mouths) on a bottle of ice wine.
I first heard of ice wine while on a Niagara-on-the-Lake tour of 4 different wineries. We stopped at Inniskillin Winery where we were offered a taste of their finest selection of ice wine and then given a tour on how the ice wine is made; turns out it’s a lot more work than regular wine.
Ice wine (also called dessert wine) was first created in Germany in the late 1700’s. Since then, people have attempted many different ways of making the wine but of course, the natural course is always the best one. Ice wine is made by first freezing the grapes while they are on the vine. This process freezes the water but DOES NOT freeze the sugar inside the grapes, leaving the sugars a lot more concentrated than regular wine. When the grapes are removed from the vine, the product is dehydrated which leads to the much sweeter and stronger flavor of ice wine. In order to achieve this flavor, the grapes must be completely frozen, therefore winter is obviously a popular time to grow the grapes that are made for ice wine. They can be artificially frozen, but of course this does not compare to the taste of anything that is made naturally. In order to yield the best quality product, the grapes should be picked in the middle of the night as that’s when they are the coldest.
Currently, ice wine is made mostly in Germany, but also New Zealand, Canada, Austria, The United States and Australia. I have taste-tested my way through a wide variety of ice wines and purchased a couple of bottles (which did not last long at all) but I feel it necessary to mention one particular winery that I visited on Niagara-on-the-Lake just a couple of months ago.
I visited the winery online for the first time to purchase a couple’s package that allows you to sample 3 Premium Ice wines each, 2 Ice wine cocktails each, and 2 Ice wine slushies (I was really stoked about this deal, all for $24 per couple!). We visited the winery in November on a beautiful sunny day and our first notice was how quaint and adorable it was. It’s very small but inside has 2 bar areas and 1 area for serving the Ice wine slushies. We were greeted when we walked in and first brought over to try the ice wine slushies. We had a choice between red and white and OH MY GOODNESS, they are INCREDIBLE. We ended up buying another set before we left because they were THAT good. The server informed us that the summer months are very popular for ice wine slushies as they are literally the perfect treat to have in order to cool down. They are the perfect sweet treat for any occasion, seriously amazing.
We were then taken over to the second bar and were told we could take our time and look around before we did more tastings. I really appreciated the ability to do what we wanted and tour at our own discretion because we took our time and admired everything about the place. They had very nice setups and displays of information all over, explaining the origin of the winery and how ice wine is made. They also had the machines to make ice wine displayed below the main floor, that you could look out on and view from above.
We tried our ice wine cocktails and our 3 premium ice wines afterwards. The sample sizes were quite generous and they gave you chocolate, chips and nuts to try with different wines, explaining which ones tasted better as combinations. We were thrilled with the samples, the service, the atmosphere and the location. We were absolutely head over heels about the ice wine slushies and definitely will be back for those.
If you ever have a chance to try ice wine, although many are seemingly expensive, give it a shot and pay the extra money. I promise you won’t regret it!