Canadian Ice Wine

October 8, 2012 by  

Canadian Ice Wine, When people think of Canada they often think thoughts of the tundra. Maybe that’s why Ice Wine has become Canada’s distinctive contribution to the world of wine. According to the Wine Economist Journal, not Champagne, not Bordeaux, and not Port, but Canadian Ice Wine commands the second highest average per bottle price in wine exports (behind Swiss wines).

Many a wine buyer confronted with Ice Wines at the wine store, or the wine section of Whole Foods, puzzles over why the skinny bottles typical of Ice Wine cost so much.

Although it is a European creation, Canada is today’s world’s largest producer of Ice Wine and its half bottles (375ml) are priced overseas from $50 to $500 each, especially in that latest luxury market: Asia.

Asian tourists leaving North America for home almost raid the Ice Wine shelves in airport duty-free shops. In fact, according to the Wine Economist, some duty-free shops have established bonded facilities in Japan to make access to Ice Wine convenient: you pay at the Canadian airport and you pick up your wine in Japan.

Sadly, it’s believed that nearly 50 percent of the Ice Wine sold in Taiwan is a counterfeit. According to Canada’s Vineland Estates, Allan Schmidt, the counterfeiting is worse in China. He has pulled his winery exports from that market.

Still, the Chinese market for Canadian Ice Wine stands between $1 and $2 million annually.

To produce Ice Wine in Canada by law, the grapes must hang on vines well into early winter until they are frozen to 17 degrees F and they must have reached a minimum of 35 degrees brix (35% sugar by weight). Plus, they must be picked by hand, in the cold. The grape juice is so concentrated that it offers from one-quarter to one-third the volume of wine as regular harvested grapes produce. The yield, as well as the labor, accounts for the high prices for the finished wine.

In Europe and in New York, Riesling is often used for Ice Wine, but in Canada, the preferred grape is Vidal Blanc, a French-American hybrid suitable because its thick skin stands up to the invariably harsh winter weather. Still, Riesling is commonly found, and other grapes, such as Cabernet Franc and even Tempranillo are used by some wineries.

The wine is either consumed in small sips or it can be poured over ice cream as a syrup!

The most commonly found Ice Wine in the U.S. is probably Inniskillin, which has wineries in Niagara, Ontario as well as the Okanagan Valley. A 2008 Vidal Ice Wine costs around $45.00. This winery also makes Tempranillo Ice Wine.

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