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Growing grapes for icewine, Canada

Raise a frosty glass to Canada’s icewines

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17 May 2016 by Amy Sohanpaul

This article originally appeared in Traveller magazine.

Stacey Mulholland from Inniskillin Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake shares her tips on enjoying Canadian icewine.

Wexas: How long have wines been made in Canada, and who were the original pioneers?

Stacey Mulholland: Canadian wine came onto the premium wine scene in the ‘70s with pioneers such as Inniskillin, Chateau des Charmes and Hillebrand. The focus at Innikillin was on varietal wines and the cool climate Riesling and Chardonnay, followed in the ‘90s by Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc reds. Today varieties also include Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

W: What is it about the terroir of southern Ontario that makes its wines special?

SM: Our terroir combines cool climate temperatures, similar to Burgundy and New Zealand, with soils of clay and sandy loam. Our grape-growing region is bordered by Lake Ontario to the north and the Niagara Escarpment to the south and was at one point an old lakebed (Lake Iroquois). With clay being predominant, our vineyards are all under-drained with no irrigation needed.

W: Inniskillin is a leading icewine producer. What made frozen grapes attractive to local vintners?

SM: We are blessed with very cold Canadian winters—a natural reason to create icewine. Icewine is made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine. Regulations state it must be harvested at a minimum of minus 8 degrees Celsius.

Inniskillin is the leading producer of icewine, and the recipient of many top international awards—we won the Canadian Producer of the Year at the 2014 and 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, with the majority of awards for winemaker Bruce Nicholson’s icewines. We produce icewines from Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Franc and two sparkling icewines from Vidal and Cabernet Franc.

Visitors from around the world come to Inniskillin year-round to experience our icewines, and especially love to visit in January to experience the annual Icewine Festival.

W: What wines would you recommend drinking with traditional Canadian dishes, such as poutine?

SM: Poutine is certainly a Canadian classic—we have featured it at our Winter Market Grill during the Icewine Festival Weekends! With its rich, full flavours I would suggest an oak-ages Chardonnay (Inniskillin Reserve Chardonnay or Mantague Vineyard Chardonnay) or a rich smooth Merlot or Cabernet Franc (Inniskillin Reserve Merlot, Reserve Cabernet Franc or the full-bodied red blend Meritage).

Icewine is now thought of as an iconic Canadian wine, and it pairs well with more than just dessert. With its concentrated flavours and layered texture, it is also terrific with savoury dishes, Canadian cheeses such as blue-veined and triple crème, salty prosciutto and rich lobster or scallops.

This article originally appeared in Traveller magazine. For more on our favourite wine regions, we suggest the following:

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