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For the love of Icewine

The Niagara Icewine Festival kicks off this weekend and runs for the next two weeks.. Here’s why you should get there and discover your one true love

By Dick Snyder

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We didn’t invent it, but we sure as hell do it better than anyone. Icewine is part of our Canadian heritage. We have the frickin’ cold weather required to freeze the grapes, for one. But more than that, we have the passionate growers and winemakers with the fortitude and guts to make the stuff. (Check out this video of machine harvesting in December at Sue-Anne Staff Estate Winery.) We tend to take it for granted as a luxury or a product for export (yes, it’s big in Japan) but pass it over as the singularly Canadian pleasure that can and should be enjoyed proudly here at home.

About 10 years ago, I was invited by esteemed wine journalist and expert Tony Aspler to judge Icewines at the annual Ontario Wine Awards. I admit I was intimidated, and thought “These are sweet wines with lots of acidity. How different can they be? How will I figure out which ones are really good?” But then I tasted through some 50 wines, along with several other professional wine judges. And it was easy to discern the winners: the wines with such vivacity and grace, complexity and verve, and bright pure joy expressed in a golden nectar.

A great Icewine makes itself known. When I have guests to a dinner party, I will bring out an Icewine to cap off the night along with a course of cheese. It surprises me how often people remark that they know we make Icewine in Ontario but they don’t often taste it. Once they do they are amazed, delighted, surprised. And they want more. To them I say: Get to the Niagara Icewine Festival, which kicks off tonight with the Niagara Icewine Gala, and continues with events and tastings through January 28. Also check out the Twenty Valley Winter WineFest and other wine country events happening all winter at Wine Country Ontario.


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