Canada’s Niagara Peninsula is the world’s most important region for producing authentic icewines made from grapes frozen on the vine. Inniskillin pioneered the making of icewine in the Niagara Peninsula, producing its first in 1984. Today it exports icewine to over 70 countries. In this article, we review their latest icewine releases from the 2015-2017 vintages. For more on icewine and sweet wines more generally, consult our Report # 27 Sweet and Dessert Wines of the World.
The making of authentic icewine is difficult and costly. Grapes must be picked frozen, often in the dead of night. Then the partially dessicated grapes are pressed, yielding less than 15 percent of the volume they would have yielded if harvested for table wine. After that, the intensely sweet juice must be slowly fermented until the optimal balance of sweetness and acidity is reached.
Inniskillin makes icewine from the Vidal, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc grape varieties. With its thick skins and high acidity, Vidal is the perfect candidate for icewine. Riesling, the variety typically use to make eiswein in Germany, offers bright acidity and pure flavors. And, being a red variety, Cabernet Franc gives red berry flavors that are distinctive for icewine.
Bruce Nicholson, a native of the Niagara Peninsula, has been the winemaker at Inniskillin since 2007.
Tasting Notes and Ratings
Inniskillin 2017 Vidal Icewine Niagara Peninsula ($55) 92 Showing a tangy nose of ripe stone fruit with tropical and citrus notes, the Vidal Icewine shows excellent balance between sugar and acid. It’s rich in the mouth with honeyed pear, lychee and apricot notes that linger and linger. Pair this flavor-packed wine with a simple cheesecake. 255 g/L with 9.8% alc.
Inniskillin 2016 Gold Vidal Icewine Niagara Peninsula ($85) 94 Fermented and then aged in French oak for 5 months, the Gold Vidal shows outstanding richness and complexity. It offers a perfumed nose, a lush mouth feel, and a liquid floral perfume on the palate that recalls tangy dried apricot, orange marmalade, and hints of toasted nuts and spice. It’s dessert in a glass and beautiful sipping on its own, but its bright acidity and bold flavors also make it a perfect candidate for pairing with aged cheeses. 250 g/L RS and 9.5% alc
Inniskillin 2017 Riesling Icewine Niagara Peninsula ($79) 93 The yellow-gold straw colored Riesling Icewine shows its varietal character, offering an exotic mix of ripe white peach, orange blossom honey, a hint of tropical pineapple, and precise citrus-like acidity. It’s vibrant and pure with a refreshing mouth feel and a long, pure, seductively sweet finish. RS 235 g/L, alc 9.4%.
Inniskillin 2015 Cabernet Franc Icewine Niagara Peninsula ($125) 92 Light ruby in color, the Cabernet Franc Icewine delivers aromas of red berries and red plum that are mirrored on an unctuous, brightly flavored palate. Its distinct strawberry character is a good pairing with chocolate, cheese, or creamy berry desserts. Our pairing favorite is chocolate mousse. RS 235 g/L 9.5% alc.