A Sparkling Niagara Icewine Festival

Icewine is the crown jewel of the Ontario wine industry, and is celebrated every January at the Niagara Icewine Festival! Thanks to Wine Country Ontario we had the pleasure of attending this year’s spectacular kick off event – the Xerox Icewine Gala – which left an absolutely sparkling impression on us! 😍

With over 100 VQA Ontario wines (and exquisite gourmet food) to choose from, it’s safe to say that we were spoiled for choice! So we’re reporting back with some of our picks for the best wines from the gala.

But before that, we thought we’d share a few quick facts about the local treasure that is Ontario Icewine…

Icewine 101

  • Icewine is produced using grapes that have been left to freeze naturally on the vine… hence the name!
  • The grapes are harvested when a consistent temperature of -8ºC or lower is reached. At this point the water in the grapes has frozen, but the sugars and other dissolved solids have not.
  • The harvest/pressing of the grapes must happen very quickly (and usually takes place during the night) to prevent the grapes from thawing out. When the grapes are pressed the frozen water is left behind as ice, and a very small amount of highly concentrated (and very sweet) juice is extracted.
  • To compare, typically 1.5 grapes are required to make 1 mL of table wine, whereas 10 grapes are required to make 1mL of Icewine.
  • Canada and Germany are the largest producers of Icewine.
  • Ontario has been producing Icewine since 1984, and has developed a reputation for producing some of the worlds finest. Today it’s exported across the world, primarily to Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
  • The most common grape varieties used to produce Ontario Icewines are: Vidal Blanc, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc. Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Icewines are also produced in smaller amounts. And yes, Sparkling Icewines are totally a thing!
  • Icewines are very rich in flavour and aroma. Displaying notes of ripe tropical fruits, citrus, honey, and fresh red berries. They are very sweet, but a high level of acidity balances out the sweetness perfectly. They are best served chilled, and as an accompaniment to dessert, but also pair exceptionally well with spicy foods and rich cheeses.
  • As Icewine production is regulated by the VQA here in Ontario, strict standards and practices are put in place to ensure quality. Similar to Champagne in France, a bottle may only use the term “Icewine” on the label if its produced here in Canada following the VQA’s regulations.

For more on Canadian Icewine, check out Wine Country Ontario’s super comprehensive Canadian Icewine brochure.

Our Xerox Icewine Gala Picks

The Xerox Icewine Gala boasted a selection of over 100 VQA Ontario wines, so it was impossible to try them all. But you should know by now that we can sniff out bubbles like bloodhounds, so we sampled all of the sparkling wines that the gala had to offer. 😉

We also learned that a glass of sparkling wine topped with Icewine makes for a perfect and quintessentially Canadian treat. We couldn’t help ourselves! Alright, TL;DR – here are some of our favourites that we sipped, and suggest you try sipping too!

Tawse Spark Brut 2014

This glorious traditional method bubbly is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Gris, and was aged for 12 months on the lees. Showcasing delicious notes of baked pie crust, crisp green apple and citrus. We tried this one mixed with a splash of the 2013 Riesling Icewine and it took it to a whole other level! Learn more…

Trius Brut

Another traditional method sparkler – this classic blend of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir also features notes of vibrant citrus, apple and pastry that come from up to 2.5 years of aging on the lees! It was exceptional on its own, and we also thoroughly enjoyed it when it was topped with a bit of the 2013 Showcase Cabernet Franc Icewine! Learn more…

Peller Estates Ice Cuvée

This traditional method sparkling wine actually has a dosage of Ontario Vidal Icewine added in after the second fermentation! This beautiful off-dry bubbly shows notes of apricot, yeast, honey and ripe apple on the nose, followed by tropical fruits on the palate with a refreshing pink grapefruit finish. Yum! Learn more…

Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Sparkling Icewine 2012

Yes! A full on Sparkling Icewine!  This unique treat offers aromatics of cherries and strawberries. With fresh flavours of raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb on the palate, all balanced by a wonderfully crisp acidity. We really enjoyed this one! Learn more…

Magnotta Vidal Sparkling Icewine (Merritt Road Limited Edition) 2015

Another Sparkling Icewine! With a stunning intense flavour profile of apricot, mango and pineapple. Pair this beautiful blue little bottle with some strong cheeses and pastries. Learn more…

13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut

An old favourite of ours, we put a spin on it by topping it with a splash of the 2013 13 Below Zero Riesling, and it was awesome! The brut rosé is the perfect every day bubbly, a traditional method blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Gamay Noir. By adding a splash of Icewine, you really get a quintessentially Canadian experience! Learn more…

EastDell Cuvée Brut 2011

A blend of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, we had never tried this one previously but found ourselves quickly going back for another taste! Explosively aromatic with ripe pear, juicy peach, and green apple notes. Full of tropical fruit and citrus flavours with a lingering finish. It’s definitely on our radar now! Learn more…

Megalomaniac Sparkling Personality 2015

Another one we hadn’t tried previously, but were SO impressed with! Maybe it’s because we can relate to the name so well? 😜 This off-dry sparkler features lemon zest, pear and mineral/stone notes. It goes down so easy and certainly has the personality to be a crowd pleaser! Learn more…

To sum things up, this was by far one of the best wine events we’ve had the pleasure of attending. Thank you Wine Country Ontario! 💖 Every detail was meticulously thought out, the food was amazing, and the wine selection was incredible. So much diversity, and so many high quality wines that really give you a flavour of what’s happening here in Ontario and what this amazing region has to offer. We highly recommend snagging tickets to the gala next year, and in the meantime get out there and taste some Ontario wines! Whether it be sparkling, or Icewines… or both together! Cheers! 🍾