alert

Please note:

We are not taking orders for delivery at present. More Information.

Inspiration / Lifestyle & Opinion

Andrew Jefford: The Beauty of Icewine in a Deathly Canadian Winter

Contents

Andrew Jefford Andrew Jefford / 20 November 2019

The View From Here: Keep Walking

It wasn't Christmas, but shortly afterwards: my first visit to winter Ontario. I remember mansions of grey in the skies, either salvaged from or collapsing towards night; I remember the thick curds of ice in the Niagara river, and the piercing wind off the great lake. I took a morning walk in the grey gloom, seeing folk cleaning last night's snow from their cars and liberating their driveways anew; they stared at me as if I was King Lear, out on the heath in the storm. This was no season for pedestrians. Later I took a dusk walk in the grey gloom along the river – and realised that I couldn't stop walking. Death politely loitered in wait for those who stopped walking at -12°C (and dropping). But there were birds out there, geese and waterfowl, and they were going to be out there all night, neither flying nor waddling. Feathers, down, bare skin. How would they survive?

I remember the thick curds of ice in the Niagara river, and the piercing wind off the great lake
'I remember the thick curds of ice in the Niagara river, and the piercing wind off the great lake'

Once inside, everything was cheerier: a fire of logs in the hotel foyer, and flame-effect fires in every room. It was still holiday time, and winery tasting rooms were open, with welcoming braziers sending sparks skywards in the snowy paths outside, and more open fires inside. ('Smoke' featured with mysterious regularity in the tasting notes.) And, of course, it was icewine season. 'Ok everyone, we're going to be doing some icewine grape-picking this morning,' boomed Greg Berti of icewine producer Andrew Peller as he clambered in his parka and woolly hat on to our tour bus. 'It's the most fun you'll ever have.' Greg paused, looking around at the innocent, expectant faces. 'For ten minutes.'

We barely managed that, since picking frozen grapes is a near-stationary activity and (as I mentioned) death is always on the lookout for those who don't move in the winter in Canada. Fortunately, most icewine picking is done by machine; it's hard to damage a frozen grape. The biggest challenge, in fact, is getting all those tons of little frozen bullets pressed afterwards. Sizeable Canadian icewine producers may only have five or six tanks of juice, but they'll have thirty presses at work on the grapes to try to extract that juice.

Picking frozen grapes for icewine is both painful and painstaking – no wonder most of it is done by machine!
Picking frozen grapes for icewine is both painful and painstaking – no wonder most of it is done by machine!
2016 Peller family's Signature series icewine

2016 Peller family's Signature series icewine

We have managed to secure a small parcel of the 2016 Peller family's Signature series icewine made from the vidal grape which is bursting with rich tropical fruit flavours of passionfruit, tangerine and candied citrus peel, summoning up images of sunny climes in stark contrast with the conditions in which it is made! With a touch of honey and spice on the long fresh finish, it would be perfect at the end of a meal with fruit-based desserts, crème brûlée or mature cheddar.


Much Canadian icewine is made of vidal grapes (a hardy hybrid) and they are terrific fun: tarte tatin, toffee apple, treacle fudge. The best, though, are made from riesling, and have a much bigger and finer spectrum of fruit flavours. Don't think Canadian wine ends with the chill succulence of icewine, though. Dry riesling can be fine and sculpted, chardonnay willowy and graceful, pinot poised and lyrical, cabernet franc chunky and convincing: those are the Canadian wines, in truth, I'd rather own. There's lots of finesse there.

The next time I returned to Ontario it was September, and the scene was different. There were red grapes on the vines and chardonnay in picking trays; winery visitors were soaking up the late-summer vibe. This was, though, still Canada; the skies were still grey. Westcott Vineyards had an open-air tasting room with decking and tables outside. And, by the door, a big pile of blankets.

The Little Farm Winery in the Similkameen Valley in British Columbia

Frozen grapes destined for icewine in Niagara

Try some 'sculpted, fine riesling' and 'willowy chardonnay' from The Little Farm Winery in the Similkameen Valley in British Columbia (refs N-CA171, £19, 12.5% and N-CA161, £20, 12.5%). Both wines come from organic grapes grown by husband-and-wife team Alishan Driediger and Rhys Pender MW on their tiny four-acre Mulberry Tree Vineyard. Both show the trademark racy character and lovely balance of wines from this part of the world.


Browse our wines from Canada

Find more articles by Andrew Jefford

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.