Kelowna recently had one of the earliest harvests for ice wine, and many wineries took advantage of the ideal conditions. The ideal climate for ice wine is one where winter freezes are erratic. The grapes for ice wine must freeze on the vines at -8C.
Canada is one of the world’s premier producers of ice wine, known for its sweetness and complexity of flavours. Hainle Vineyards in Peachland, was the first winery in Canada to produce ice wine in 1979.
Most ice wine is made from the vidal grape, which is ideally suited for ice wine. The grape ripens late and has a thick skin that can withstand rot, disease and the freeze-thaw cycles; a stubborn determination to cling to its stalk despite wind and snow; intensely aromatic fruit aromas and flavors; and a high acidity that balances the sweetness in the finished wine. Some vintners also use riesling grapes to make ice wine, though they’re not as hardy as vidal but they have more vibrant acidity and are considered more elegant, balanced and long-lived.
The prices for ice wine are high because vintners risk losing a crop if the weather doesn’t cooperate, producing the wine takes a large amount of grapes and it is labor intensive to produce.
Ice wine is best served chilled. The traditional time to serve it is at the end of the meal, when most people already feel full. So a half bottle will serve six to eight people with about two ounces apiece: the wine is so sweet that a little goes a long way.
Join us this winter for our Winter Wonderland Ice Wine Tour. You will sample late harvest and ice wine at four spectacular wineries along the Westside Wine Trail; Little Straw Vineyards, Volcanic Hills Estate Winery, Kalala Organic Estate Winery and Quails’ Gate Winery.