The 5 W’s of Nova Scotia Icewine
Who makes Icewine in Nova Scotia?
Many wineries in Nova Scotia produce estate-grown icewine, but we owe most of it in this province to one farmer: John Warner, grape grower extraordinaire. As the largest independent grape growing farm in Nova Scotia, Warner’s is a contributing factor to the growth of our wine industry. The wineries need the grape farmers to provide enough grapes to sustain their growth; hence it is a symbiotic relationship. The Warner farm is also the largest supplier of icewine juice in the province, and sells its sweet nectar of winter to several wineries. Icewine is an expensive crop to farm, requiring big investments in netting, harvesters and time, lots of time. Thankfully John Warner was willing to invest in this style of grape growing. It is the winemakers of the province and eventually us, the consumers, who reap the rewards.
What do you drink Icewine with?
Icewines are intriguing wines that can be served in equally intriguing ways. I would argue that icewine is best enjoyed alone, chilled, as a sweet ending to a meal. Heck, it’s a dessert wine after all — serve it instead of dessert. A sweet liquid end to the meal is a delightful way to keep the conversation flowing at the dinner table. As I have stated before, why eat sugar when you can simply drink it?! But there are many other equally enjoyable ways to serve icewine. It is a magical pairing with local blue cheese, for example, or try it drizzled over grilled pineapple — you won’t regret it. Why not try icewine in a cocktail? A Nova Scotia icewine is perfect for a local twist on a Kir or Kir Royale. Add an ounce of icewine and top with three ounces of a local brut sparkling or a local dry white wine. Toss a few frozen grapes in the glass and you have a full-on Nova Scotia cocktail that is not only heavenly delicious but will wow the most discerning guest.
When should you drink Icewine?
Our climate in Nova Scotia is, hands down, perfectly suited to produce Canada’s best icewine, in my own humble opinion. Icewines have high levels of sugar, but when their grapes are grown properly and they’re produced correctly, that sweetness gets balanced by a great backbone of acidity. It is the interaction of these two elements — sugars and acids — in the right combination that not only makes the wine world class but gives it the potential for long-term aging. When young, a Nova Scotia icewine displays fresh and almost tropical fruit notes — a conundrum indeed. But when these wines are cellared, the aromas and flavours develop intense caramelized complexity. If you can hold off for a few years, or ten, before popping the cork, it will be well worth the wait.
Where does Icewine get produced?
Icewine is produced in only a handful of wine regions around the world that can get cold enough for grapes to naturally freeze on the vines. Yet in some of these regions producers can’t consistently make it, as the temperatures may not dip below minus 8 degrees Celsius each year, which is the temperature necessary to produce icewine. Here in Nova Scotia that is simply not the case. Our weather guarantees a harvest each year. In some years the harvest is before Christmas, and in some it’s after, but every year Mother Nature ensures we get one. And that is great news, as Nova Scotia icewine is a hot commodity and wanted in all corners of the world, making it an increasingly great product for export. Even the yo-yo weather that we seem to be getting as of late helps develop the complexity of the juice. Although this freeze-thaw cycle frustrates me to no end, it can benefit icewine grapes because it develops the character and intensity that eventually makes it into the wine.
Why is the grape important in making Icewine?
Matching the right grape variety with the conditions of its growing environment is a key to producing top quality wines. There is no exception to this rule with icewine. The right variety needs to maintain high acidity levels as it ripens. Vidal Blanc is the icewine workhorse in this province. It produces splendid aromatics of grapefruit and pineapple while maintaining excellent acidity as the sugar develops. This grape variety is also thick-skinned, able to withstand freezing temperatures while maintaining its integrity. There are other grape variety stars we use in Nova Scotia, too. Some splendid icewines have been produced with the Riesling grape, for instance, but you’ll want to get them quick — they don’t stay on the shelves long.