Niagara Icewine, Cocktails, Festivals and Food

A Sommelier’s Perspective

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Niagara Icewine, Cocktails, Festivals and Food
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Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides is an accredited Sommelier certified by both the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) and Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). Passionate about great wine, food, and travel experiences, Cynthia is owner of Niagara Vino providing tutored wine tasting and tour services in the Niagara Peninsula wine region of Ontario, Canada. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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This week’s column is about Icewine, Niagara-style! The history of Eiswein began in Germany over 200 years ago, and in Canada around the 1980s when production really began to take off. Known today in the Niagara Peninsula wine appellation as Icewine, every January the region celebrates this special wine which has won many awards and is now world renowned.

In January 2015 many grapes intended for Icewine production were harvested in Niagara, including grapes from the vineyard at Niagara College Teaching Winery. Check out this video for an exciting look into the world of Icewine grape harvesting, a fascinating and entertaining look at the early stages of Icewine production, Students learn Icewine harvesting, report from CHCH:

‘The students were out at 6 this morning in the freezing temperatures to begin the long process of picking the grapes. By law, the temperature must be minus 8 degrees celsius or lower in order for the grapes to be picked for ice wine. Some had to be cut off the vines, while others were removed by hand. Niagara College professor Ron Giesbrecht explains why ice wine is so expensive. “When you take them into the winery they are really low yielding. They may get 700, 750 litres of a ton of grapes at regular harvest time. You are getting 150, 200, 250 depending on conditions for ice wine. You get a lot less yield.”

Let’s talk about Icewine and food. Although most thought of as a dessert wine or after dinner drink, Icewine stands up to many other foods that can complement it’s sweetness. The key is to serve Icewine with foods that are not as sweet as the wine. Vidal (one of the major grapes used for Icewine in Niagara) can be matched well with tropical fruits, and also contrasted with blue cheese or salted nuts for a sweet and salty sensation.

If you want to go straight to cocktails, check out these recipes from The Ice House Winery, or better yet stop by for one of their Ice House Slushies – one of my all-time favourite Niagara Icewine experiences.

Every January festivals are held throughout the Niagara region celebrating Icewine. The Niagara Icewine Festival is happening this weekend at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, 6815 Stanley Ave., Niagara Falls on Jan. 23 (6 to 11 p.m.); Jan. 24 (2 to 11 p.m.); Jan. 25 (noon to 5 p.m.); Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door. www.niagarawinefestival.com

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