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The next time you think “ice wine” is what you get whenever you plop a frozen cube into your chardonnay or pinot grigio, you might better think again. Icewine (or eiswein in the German-speaking lands that taught us to love the stuff ) is becoming a force to be reckoned with—one that can add a festive touch to any affair.
In recent years, icewines have become a special fascination in places with, well, lots of ice—specifically the U.S. Finger Lake region and northern Michigan. The making of icewine involves more nature than nurture. The process means leaving grapes on the vine until they are frozen by the plummeting temperatures, whether that happens in October, November or as late as January. The sugars inside the grapes do not freeze, so their sweetness becomes more concentrated in turn making the wine sweeter. Unlike grapes used to make other dessert wines there is no botrytis or “noble rot” involved—making for a cleaner, crisper, more refreshing taste. That’s good news in Texas, where even the holidays can enjoy mild weather.
The best known Canadian icewine, Inniskillin, was introduced as recently as 1984. Whether it was the actual first icewine made in Canada can be debated—but we know it was the first to attract international attention when its 1989 Vidal Icewine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in 1991. Within about a decade, Canada the newcomer made itself the largest producer of icewine on the face of the earth.
Recipe courtesy of Inniskillin
- 2.5 oz Inniskillin Cab Franc
- .75 oz rye whiskey
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Lemon peel
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, stir until cold, strain over one large ice cube and garnish.