Volume 92, Issue 78
Tuesday, February 16, 1999
Heating things up with ice
With the passing of Valentine's Day, the big three dating holidays are behind us for another year.
What are those romantics to do in order to keep the flame lit with no more Hallmark holidays in sight? My solution, which happens to be the solution to most of life's great dilemmas, is wine.
Generally, a great table wine can make any difficult situation a little more amicable, however, a subject as difficult as the opposite sex requires a little more finesse. Ice wine, "the sweet nectar of the gods," is one of the most alluring representatives of the grape and just so happens to be Canada's greatest gift to the world of wine.
Those bitter cold winter nights which keep Canadians bundled up by the fire also gave birth to ice wine. It is a very sweet dessert wine made from the slowly pressed juice of frozen grapes. These grapes are left on the vines long after the autumn harvest until the first cold spell of the season.
In order to pick ice wine grapes, the mercury must drop to at least -11C for three consecutive evenings. At this time, the grapes will be frozen as hard as marbles and will release about one drop of nectar per grape. The contents of this single drop are what make ice wine so magical.
Each drop is nearly pure acid and sugar the two key components in wine and the water content of the grape has either evaporated or remained crystallized in the presser.
At this point nature has done its duty and it is up to the wine maker to transform the unfermented juice into a succulent wine. A well made ice wine has few contenders in richness and structure. It is like the difference between Smarties and a fine Callebaut Truffle.
Sipping is probably the best way to go because the price of a 375 ml bottle ranges from $40 to $60 and closer to $100 for special reserve bottles. One nice thing about the price is that it's cheaper here in Canada than it is anywhere else in the world. Our harsh climate allows us to be the only country in the world able to produce ice wine every year.
Germany produces their version, "eiswein," only a few times each decade when they have a cold enough winter. While the price may seem extraordinary, it is a far cry from the $100 US that our neighbours to the south pay and upwards of $300 US for the same 375 ml bottle in the Asian markets.
To enjoy ice wine, only a small glass is required most servings are no more than two ounces served in a slightly chilled glass. When dining at a winery or simply a wine dinner, ice wine is often served as a dessert on its own. While this may not satisfy a hardcore chocoholic, if dessert is to be served with this type of wine, the dessert must be less sweet than the wine to avoid making the taste dry and flat.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999