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Ice Wine – Canada’s specialty

No good meal should end without a little something sweet. So it seems only right to end the Canadian-hosted Winter Olympics with a little something sweet. And what better drink to finish off the celebration than the decadent sweet wine Canadians do best -icewine.

Though Canada is not the home of ice wine, it certainly has become known for it. Germany has been making ice wine (or eiswein) for over two centuries, while Canada has been at it only since the 70s. In fact, icewine (one word in Canada, two words everywhere else) did not take off in Canada until the early 1990s. The high point for the industry was when Inniskillin's 1989 Icewine took the Grand Prix d'Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. This award put Inniskillin – and Canadian Icewine – on the map. Production has been growing ever since.

What is ice wine and how is it made?

Basic definition: Ice wine is dessert wine made from grapes that freeze while still on the vine. It is sweet because the water freezes, but not the sugar, leaving a much more concentrated grape.

The process: The grapes ripen just as other grapes do, but then they must stay on the vine until the first "hard freeze," or until the temps reach 17 degrees Fahrenheit (in Canada). Two climate factors much come together to make an ice wine crop work.
1. The first hard freeze cannot come too late – a late freeze means a higher chance of rotten grapes.
2. Temperatures must be cold, but not too cold – if the temperatures drop too low, the grapes are too hard and the juice is lost.

If these two factors come together, a successful ice wine can be made.

The grapes are picked and pressed while still frozen, meaning many harvests occur at night and in the early morning. Yields are low and the fermentation process is slow due to the concentration of sugar in the grape must.

The finished product: The finished wine is concentrated and sweet, but with a unique freshness that differentiates itself from other dessert wines, such as those made from botrytis-affected grapes. The wine is pure and clean, with notes of honey, citrus, apricot, apple and caramel. The acidity is bright and finish amazingly long. If you're not a fan of port or Sauternes, you may be surprised at how much you like Icewine – it's uplifting rather than heavy.

The grape most used for Canadian ice wine is the native variety, Vidal. But Inniskillin – and other producers – are also using Riesling and even Cabernet Franc to create even more decadent ice wine.

The wine can be costly, due to the intense process it takes to pick and press the grapes, as well as the low yield from frozen grapes But it is worth every penny as you sip this decadent treat!

So toast the final days of the Olympics with a glass of Canadian Icewine as a salute to the host country. May as well have a bowl of vanilla ice cream along with it as the pairing will put you in heaven.