WBW #27 – Icy Desserts

November 8, 2006

The theme of this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday is ‘Icy Desserts‘, hosted by Kitchen Chick. Not surprisingly, there will be a whole lot of icewines being tasted for this edition of WBW. And as a wine blogger from one of the coldest cities in Canada, you’d think I would be all over this one like a black bear in a Whiteshell garbage dump (forgive the local reference).

Think again. I’m not a huge fan of icewine.

Sacre bleu! I’m Canadian (at least in part). We produce the most (and quite possibly the best) icewine in the world (with full apologies to our German friends). How can this be possible?

Let me rephrase.

I’m not a fan of icewine unless someone else is buying it. I do enjoy drinking icewine. But given the huge price difference between Canadian icewines and Canadian late harvest wines, I really don’t see the point. A good late harvest wine (like Cave Spring’s Indian Summer Riesling) is just as sweet, goes equally well at the end of the meal and has only slightly less acidity than an icewine.

But the price difference is staggering. The Inniskillin Vidal icewine I chose for today’s tasting is $29.99 for a 200ml bottle (just over 1/4 of a full bottle). That’s actually a good price. Yet the Cave Spring ‘Indian Summer’ Riesling (sadly no longer available) was $24.95 for a 375 ml bottle (almost twice as much wine). Compare that to the Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine (my absolute favourite) at $62.87 for a 375ml bottle.

Now by law, icewine can only be harvested after November 15th, and must be picked when the temperature is -8 Celcius (17 F) or below. I understand that there are a lot of risks in the process, and I don’t begrudge the prices charged by the makers. It’s just that late harvest wines are such a bargain in comparison.

Anyways, I’m not trying to rain on the parade here, I’m always up for an icewine challenge and my chosen wine was the Inniskillin Vidal Icewine (2004 vintage) from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. This is one of the most widely available icewines, and I think it’s a good benchmark for Canadian icewine in general.

Inniskillin has been making icewine for years, and have done some pretty interesting things (oak ageing and sparkling icewine for starters). Now personally, I think the best icewines are made with Riesling, but the late-ripening Vidal grape puts on a very good show too.

In the glass, it showed off a rich golden colour, typical of icewine. The nose started off with a lot of dried apricots, some citrus sweetness and a hint of honey. After about ten minutes, the dried apricot and citrus faded out and honey really took over. I started to pick up some apples as well.

The flavour hits your palate like a water balloon on a concrete wall, exploding all over the place. There was a lot of acidity in the mouth, which cut the almost cloying sweetness and made it very well-balanced. I picked up more citrus, apples and honey (an odd combination) although the dried apricot nose also came through on the mouth at first. The finish was long and glorious and I loved every second of it.

Was it tasty? Yep. No arguments there. Icewine is always a treat.

Was it better than a good late harvest wine? Probably not. I’ve never tried a blind comparison of the two styles, but my experience has been that it’s not that easy to tell them apart. Icewine has more acidity and can be more viscous in the glass while decent Canadian late harvest wines aren’t as rich and sometimes have a hint of botrytis on the nose (something I’ve never found with icewine). Aside from the price – that’s it.

As for a dessert pairing, I have always considered late harvest and icewines to be their own dessert. That being said, the best icewine/dessert combo I ever tried was a glass of Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine with a Normandy apple tart. The apricot glaze and apples went perfectly with the acidity in the wine. And the tart itself (although sweet) hovered just on the edge of savoury, so it didn’t overwhelm the wine.



  1. Thanks for particiating, even though ice wine isn’t your thing! Those are some good points about the tradeoff between pricy ice wine and more affordable late harvest wines. (It’s taken a while, but I’m finally revisiting everyone from WBW #27 and re-reading all the posts.) Are you having a warm winter like we are down here in Michigan?

  2. Yes, we’ve only had one week of unbearably cold weather this winter. Otherwise it has been gorgeous up here.

  3. Hello to every one, the contents existing at this web site are actually
    remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

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