Top 10 Tips for Icewine Lovers

Not many people know this, but the benefits from drinking Icewine include glossy hair, increased endorphins, a good sense of humour, endurance, being 24% bullet proof, rhythm, the power of persuasion and an uncanny knack for foreign languages.

Or, at least, these feel like concrete facts whenever I’m drinking it.

Note the one word and capital letter of Icewine.  This signifies it is a Canadian product and made to the very strict standards of the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance). Labelled in other countries, such as Austria or the USA, as Ice Wine; or in the original German home, as Eiswein; the Canadian wine delicacy is made from frozen grapes harvested in temperatures between -8 and -14 to create an intense, mouth-quenching dessert wine.

What’s the method to this madness?

Water freezes before sugar and acid, so when frozen grapes are pressed the concentrated sugar and acid drips out before the water.  It’s like wringing out the gold from a trophy and fermenting it. The Vidal grape is the most common variatal used in Icewine, chosen for its thick skin and ability to sustain its shape over long periods of time.  It takes 3 consecutive nights at -8 or more for the grapes to be thoroughly frozen. Harvesting happens in the dead of night, so cold that people lose their fingers (not really, but Icewine deserves this kind of reputation).  The grapes are often pressed outside to let Mother Nature guard the arctic temp so the water doesn’t start sneaking into your honey nectar. The juice you receive is roughly 15% of what you would take from a press of regular grapes, which, asides from the painful labour, can explain the golden price tag.

Harvesting by night to keep the grapes frozen

Harvesting by night to keep the grapes frozen

Savour the flavour

Expect a firework of flavours: mango, butterscotch, lemon zest, honey, figs and green apple.  Many people assume the sweetness will take your mouth hostage in some sugar heist. But that cold climate electric acidity produces the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It’s tangtastic. Drool inducing, lip smacking, curling your tongue into origami.

Ask not what your Icewine can do for you, but what you can do for your Icewine

  1. Serve after dinner, well chilled. You only need fairy sips from a third of a normal glass of wine to experience true tongue-dancing happiness.
  2. There’s no cooler way to show up to a party then as the one who brought Icewine and blue cheese. A tangy cheese will complement the Icewine sweetness like yin to yang.

    Blue cheese is a great friend to Icewine

    Blue cheese is a great friend to Icewine

  3. Keep it in the door of
    your fridge and take a congratulatory swig every time you reach in to get your milk. The high sugar acts as a preservative which means Icewine will last as long as a jar mayonnaise.
  4. Add it to a bone-dry sparkling wine to create a honeyed richness.
  5. Roast halved apples or pears in Icewine at a high temperature for 45 minutes. Serve when fruit is caramelised, top with crème fraiche and drizzle with the pan juices.
  6. Simmer some mushrooms in Icewine for half an hour then add a shot of espresso for a seriously delicious pasta sauce. (Thank you Katie & Mateo!) See more recipes
  7. Cocktails!
The Cold Old Fashioned

1oz Canadian whisky

1oz Red Icewine

Splash of soda

Add cherries and orange slice

Lychee Chill

2oz Icewine

1oz lychee juice or nectar

Garnish with raspberries


Icewine Martini

1oz Icewine

1 ½ oz vodka

Splash of soda

1 frozen grape


  1. Drink it WITH your dessert.

Ever tried to serve a whopping, chunky red wine with your dessert? Next to the sweet flavours in your pudding, a beautiful Barolo turns into vinegar. Then some caffeine-fiddler guest asks for a coffee, then everyone wants a coffee, then it’s getting late, thanks for everything… party over. The tangy sugar content of Icewine will stand up to your dessert and complement the flavours like lime to a gin and tonic. Then your party is just beginning.

  1. Drink it on birthday mornings with strawberries. Flip, make it your family Crimbo tradition.
  2. Prices of Icewine have rocketed in the last ten years, due to the fame and success of the Okanagan and Niagara. Nova Scotia, being the new-kid-on-the-block, is producing award-winning Icewine at a portion of the price. Snap it up! Show it off! Drink it up!

Nova Scotia Icewine Festival 2015

Jan 31st/Feb 1st and Feb 7th/Feb 8th

@ Grande Pre Winery. Get your tickets here 

Whallops of events to get involved in, including Icewine dinners at Luckett Vineyards .


Tuesday Night Tastings – sound the trumpets!

Here’s a lovely thing to be part of: a budding, blooming wine region.

It means you can sip and sup and sing over a bottle in a restaurant and compliment the wine maker yourself.  It means people are passionate about vintage variation because they were there in that year and they remember the weather and how it affected growth. It means you can overhear two youngsters having a heated argument over vine tucking techniques. It means you are saluted by waving vine limbs on your journey to work.  It means …Tuesday Night Tastings.


Tuesday Night Tastings (TNT) are a monthly get-together of all the folks in the trade. A different winery plays host to the each event, with all the attending vineyards contributing a bottle to a particular theme: L’acadie, blended reds, Tidal Bay etc. The wines are tried, tasted, talked about, twittered and tap danced over. It’s an eve of ‘meet your maker’, of ‘who’s who’, an amalgamation of those in the trade and an insight as to what’s going on around you. I tip my hat to Susan-the-doer from Avondale Sky Winery for whipping the vineyards into shape and making it happen.

A tour before tasting. John shows us the cellar of his newly opened Planter's Ridge.

A tour before tasting. John shows us the cellar of his and Lisa’s newly opened Planter’s Ridge.

Last week’s theme: vinifera! (I added the exclamation mark).

Venue: new-kid-on-the-block Planter’s Ridge, owned by Ontarians John McLarty and Lisa Law.

The drastic seasonal climate variations means that the common European grape variatals (vitis vinifera) are difficult to grow here. The unsung hybrid grape variatals are more commonly planted for their brutish ability to endure the winters and for their frost-dodging early ripening skills (see previous blog ‘Who are these guys, anyway?’). But it’s play time here in Nova Scotia and vineyards are experimenting with a plethora of variatals like gleeful mad scientists in laboratories.

There is no better person to take to a social wine event than my Auntie Barb, the woman who invented the term ‘a splashette of wine’. We were over the moon to welcome a new winery to the region and to taste through varietals which may be a premonition into the Nova Scotia wine future.


A 7 course menu

A 7 course menu. An insight into the future Nova Scotia grape varietals?


The menu, ladies and gents

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013

An insy production of just 2500 bottles from some 13 year old vines.  They slogged for a very low yield and froze a portion of the grapes to intensify the flavours. Unlike any other Sauvignon I’ve ever tried, a gorgeous rich marmalade nose that tasted like a sherbet lemon.


Blomidon Chardonnay 2013

Hurrah for Chardonnay! Only produced in good years , this  unoaked fresh number spent five months on its lees to add a little creaminess.  Rumour has it their 2010 Reserve oaked Chardonnay gave Burgundy a run for their money.


Grand Pre Riesling 2013

A tongue slapping Granny Smith apple from their 14 year old vines. It’s no surprise that this just won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia wines.


Avondale Sky Gewürztraminer/Riesling 2012

Lychee and honey and all things pretty. This blend has some popularity across Canada.

Avondale Sky Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir 2013

Harvesting only a smidg of Pinot Noir grapes, they quickly removed the skins from the pressed juice to make this white wine from the red grape.  Very exciting.

Planter’s Ridge Riesling 2013

Straight out of the tank! A peep show of their unreleased cold fermented Riesling.  Just 300 cases made from the small crop they took from their three year old vines. A white pepper nose and dandelions (Auntie Barb said that).


Luckett Vineyards Riesling Icewine 2013

It’s like drinking a trophy made from golden lemons. Harvested in Decemeber last year by local grower John Warner and put into action by our Mike. It’s an after dinner heart breaker.