Canadians didn’t invent Icewine, but they sure have perfected it!

Eiswein was first created in Germany in the 1700s. Although icewine was not made in Canada first, it has definitely brought icewine to a whole new level. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has the right climate for icewine and it produces it at a world-class level.


The Climate Needed to Make Icewine

Grapes used for icewine are a pretty hardy crop. The climate conditions should be a warm summer so the grapes ripen, with sub zero winter temperatures. The catch is that the winter must be cold enough for the grapes to freeze, but not so cold as to destroy the grapes. The best temperature range is -8ºC to -12ºC, which means winemakers must watch the weather carefully. The grapes are usually harvested between late November and mid to late December. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of the night. Timing is everything. The grapes must be picked and pressed before they thaw otherwise the wine will be flawed.

canadian icewine, wine Canada
Image Source: BCWI


Icewine is one of the most expensive wines on the market, and there are three main reasons why:

    1. The process of making icewine is delicate one, requiring very precise harvesting and pressing. If the residual sugar of the pressed juice measures outside the range of 35-50% natural sugar there will be no icewine that year.
    2. The winemaker must follow the fermentation process very closely because high levels of sugar can stop fermentation, causing low alcohol percentages and low acidity which ruin the balance of the wine.
    3. The frozen state of grapes at harvest makes pressing difficult. Very little amounts of juice can actually be extracted from each grape. 1.5 grapes = 1 ml of table wine whereas 10 grapes are needed for 1 ml of icewine.


Where in Canada is Icewine made?

Canada has wine regions in the follow provinces:

      1. Ontario
      2. British Columbia
      3. Quebec
      4. Nova Scotia

Most Canadian Icewines are produced in British Columbia and Ontario. The Niagara Escarpment in particular is well-known for quality Icewine and holds the annual Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival every year in January — a absolute must for Icewine lovers! Nova Scotia also holds its Icewine Festival at just before spring.


Ensuring World Class Quality for Canadian Icewine

In Ontario, Icewine is regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). Some characteristics of a great icewine include: rich aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruit (lychee, papaya and pineapple), peaches, honey, citrus, melon and strawberries. The flavours depend on which varietal was used for the specific icewine. Common varietals include: Vidal, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Ortega and Muscat.

Enjoying Icewine at Inniskillin
Image by: Wines of Canada


A Few Top Picks for Canadian Icewine

Inniskillin Wines:Oak Aged Ice Wine

Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (ON)


Gehringer Brothers: Cabernet Franc Icewine

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (BC)


Benjamin Bridge: Borealis 2009

Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (NS)


Vignoble de l’Orpailleur: L’Orpailleur Vin de Glace

Dunham, Quebec (QC)


Diamond Estates: Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Vidal

Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (ON)


Pillitteri Estate: Vidal Icewine 2007

Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (ON)


Stoneboat Vineyards: Pinotage Icewine

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (BC)


Serving Tips for Icewine

Icewine should be served in a traditional white wine glass and must be served chilled either in the fridge for at least 2 hours or in an ice bath for 20+ minutes. Icewines can be served on their own, as part of a cocktail and are sometimes a base for sparkling wines. They are best paired with desserts, spicy cuisine or savoury foods. Three great pairing combos include: foie gras, aged blue cheese or dark chocolate.


Information and regulations for British Columbia (BC) Icewine:

BC Wine Harvest Has Arrived! Wineries Brave Freezing Temperatures to Pick Grapes


Now that you know about Canadian Icewine, check out these other Canadian wine articles: