Heritage Village, Vineland, Ontario

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On the Wine Route


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icewine.glassNiagara Icewine icy2


Canada is now the world leader in production of quality icewine. Niagara is the prime site, being an ideal cool climate viticulture region. Our main rival is Germany, having produced icewine (Eiswein) in Franconia, since 1794. Some 13 other countries are also active, but not all products are true icewines. Niagara vintners in contrast have earned a treasure chest of gold medals in world competitions, making icewine the area's signature product.

Icewine is a dessert wine with a lower alcohol content than dinner wine (5.5-12%) and a much higher sugar content (180-320 g/L) but very drinkable because of a high acidity (>10 g/L).  

Sweet wines from late harvested grapes (Spätlese, Auslese) were first developed in 1775 at Schloss Johannisberg in Rheingau. These were derived from raisined grapes, usually botrytised (affected by Botrytis cinerea  or “noble rot”).  Niagara wineries in the 1950s marketed such products based on local labrusca cultivars under copycat names like “Canadian Tokay” and “Haut Sauterne”.  Today our wineries also produce sweet wines labelled “Late Harvest” or Sauterne style”.  These do not meet the VQA standards of dessert

The first bottles of icewine in Canada were made in B.C. by Walter Hainle in 1973, but not at commercial scale. Commercial icewine, from grapes free of Botrytis, didn’t see production in Niagara until the Austrian, Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin at Niagara-on-the-Lake produced a batch of “Eiswein” in 1984 from Vidal grapes. The European winemakers at Reif, Hillebrand and Pelee Island were not far behind.  Vidal, a French Hybrid cultivar is still today the main grape for icewine. In 1991 Inniskillin's 1989 Vidal icewine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo marking the recognition that Niagara icewine was now world-class.

Pillitteri Estates Winery is considered the world’s largest icewine producer with most innovation in varieties.  Closer to our Village, the  Royal DeMaria Wines lays claim to the most expensive. Joseph DeMaria’s  2000 Chardonnay icewine has won 4 Citadelles Gold trophies at the VinExpo, Bordeaux, France. One half-bottle, they claim, sold in November 2006 at $30,000. Their price is rising as this wine ages and the stock dwindles.  They produce some 24 varietals of icewine and claim 8 world wine records.

icewines nearly

For the unique sweetness and high acidity, the ice wine must be made from grapes frozen on the vine before fermentation.  This makes it a high-risk harvest because of crop loss from birds or a mild winter as well as the high Labour costs.  The low yield from a more concentrated grape" must", and longer fermentation means icewine is a luxury product.

The winemakers of Austria, Germany, and Canada agreed on standards in 2000 for Icewine (Canada) and Eiswein (Austria, Germany).  Based on these guides, the  Canadian VQA quality requires:

  • Grapes:
  •  Sugar level at 35° Brix or more  ("must weight").
  • Hard natural freeze on vine to −8 °C (17 °F) or colder after ripe
  • Wine:
  • Minimum alcohol level of 5.5% alc/vol


Grapes with insufficient sugar level are normally  used for “Select Late Harvest” wines (here identified as LH). Elsewhere, some winemakers use cryoextraction (mechanical freezing) on harvested grapes to simulate frost, producing an inferior product called "icebox wine".  Some wineries in Ontario and BC have been known to truck harvested grapes to colder terrain which alsdo doesn't meet code.


Common Varieties used to make icewine are:glass

White (pale yellow, ages to amber) :  Riesling, Vidal

Red (pink or burgundy):  Cabernet Franc

Trial White Varieties:  Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer

Trial Reds:  as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz


There are also local innovators worth exploring, such as:

ViceVodka-Icewine martini by Vineland Estates:  a world-first

Icegrappa:  Magnotta's dessert wine made from the frozen skins of icewine grapes.

How to Serve

Classed as a "dessert" wine, icewine is also reported to go well with a pâté, dark chocolate, strong cheese or Chinese food. The recommended serving is chilled to 5 to 7ºC and offered in 2 oz. portions in a liqueur or sherry glass.  Or pour it on ice cream, if it suits you.



LOCAL ICEWINE (20 VALLEY)icewine_glass

(Visit websites for more current information)

Vineland Wineries

Angels Gate         none

Alvento Winery                            none

Featherstone         Gewürztraminer

A Foreign Affair         Cabernet Sauvignon

Megalomaniac    Riesling

Ridgepoint                Caberent Sauvignon (+LH) 

Stoney Ridge                 Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc (+LH), Riesling, Vidal (+LH)

Tawse Winery                 Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet

Vineland                                   Vidal 

Wayne Gretzky  Vidal, Shiraz

Beamsville Wineries

Angels Gate   

Cornerstone      Cabernet, Vidal

Crown Bench  Chardonnay (Sauterne style)     

Daniel Lenko                  Vidal, Vignier (1st in world)

De Sousa Wine           Cabernet Franc

EastDell Estates                       Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Vidal

Fielding Estate                     Gewürztraminer (LH)

Hidden Bench                     none

Kacaba                                         Cabernet Franc

Legends Estates               Cabernet Franc, Vidal (+LH)

Magnotta                                   Riesling, Vidal, Cabernet Franc

Malivoire                                     Gewürztraminer, Riesling

Mountain Road        Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Vidal

Organized Crime      none

Peninsula Ridge               Caberbet Franc, Riesling, Vidal

Rosewood                    none

Royal DeMaria            Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Gewürztraminer, Meritage, Muscat  Ottenel,  Pinot Gris, Riesling , Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal

Thirty Bench                         Cabernet, Riesling

Jordan Wineries

Calamus Estate             Vidal

Cave Spring                        Riesling      

Creekside Estate             Riesling, Vidal

Flat Rock Cellars                   Vidal

Harbour Estates  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Vidal

Le Clos Jordanne              none

13th Street               none


St. Catharines Wineries (selection)

Henry of Pelham             Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Vidal

Hernder Estate                            Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Vidal, Pinot Gris


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