Inniskillin, 2019 Riesling, Ice Wine | VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – Ice Wine | October 11, 2021

Ice wine, also known as Eiswein in Germany and Austria, is one of the most exclusive of all wine styles. The grapes that produce this special wine must be harvested at temperatures of -20°F or below. Such frosty conditions freeze the water content in the grape. These frozen water particles remain in the grape press whilst the press juice is pumped into fermentation tanks. This juice is very dense and concentrated, and the yeast has a very tough time transforming the sugar into alcohol. Ice wine, as a result, tends to have a very high residual sugar content that easily exceeds 150 gr per liter, yet it has low alcohol levels of around 8/9%.

There must have been an “ice wine” already in ancient times, because the Roman poet Martial (40-102) reports of winegrowers who brought in frosted grapes in November. Also in the 1st century, the scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79) described certain grape varieties: “They are not harvested until it has frozen.” This indicates that ice wine was produced quite deliberately and not just by chance. Later, however, this method of harvesting and vinification seemed to have been forgotten. It is said that the production of ice wine was then rediscovered in France towards the end of the 18th century, as well as in Germany where the first ice wine harvests are said to have taken place in Franconia in 1794. The first documented ice wine was harvested on February 11, 1830, from grapes of the 1829 vintage in Dromersheim in the Rheinhessen wine region. There was an extremely cold winter and some winegrowers had the idea to leave grapes hanging to feed the animals. When it was discovered that the grapes contained very sweet must, they were pressed.

Today, ice wine is considered a sweet wine specialty of the northern wine-growing countries because only in these latitudes the necessary climatic conditions prevail. Besides Germany and Austria, an excellent ice wine culture also developed in Canada (Ontario) from the mid 1970s onwards, which was initiated by the Austrian-born Dr. Karl Kaiser (1941-2017) at the Inniskillin winery.

Inniskillin, Riesling, Ice Wine, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada 2019

Origin: Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Varietals: 100% Riesling
Sustainability: sustainable practices
Suggested Retail Price: $79.00 (375 ml)
ABV: 9.5%

Grapes for this Riesling ice wine were harvested at a frigid 14°F. After pressing, a very small amount of concentrated juice was settled, racked and inoculated. Fermentation was started using a very select yeast strain and executed at a cool 59°F for a total of 26 days, until a perfect balance of sugar, alcohol and acidity remained.

The wine has a brilliant straw yellow color. Aromas of sweet peaches, apples and citrus come through in the nose. On the palate, stone fruit and citrus with a touch of honey and butterscotch are enveloped in bright and crisp acidity and carried through a lingering finish.

Suggested food pairings: as an aperitif, white chocolate mousse, fruit panna cotta, ice cream, cheesecake, pineapple upside down cake, marzipan tart.

> For more information, visit the Inniskillin official website.

Read about Riesling Grape Varietal Definition.