Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
All rights reserved copyright
The intrepid and debonair Travelling Gourmet TM delves deeply into one of the world’s most esoteric wines…
MADE from FROZEN grapes! Just like the Kiwi Fruit that was made famous in New Zealand from its humble origins in China as the Chinese Gooseberry…Icewine had its origins in Germany but is now Canada’s most famous wine!
The most coveted dessert wine in Germany is Icewine or in German – Eiswein. Eiswein is made from grapes frozen on the vine. When grapes are naturally frozen on the vine, ALL the sugars and fruit flavours are highly concentrated. Most of the moisture is left behind as ice and Eiswein offers a pleasurable concentration of sweetness and acidity. Yields being very low…Eiswein is expensive! Due to the very high sugar, special yeasts have to be used for fermentation. Sweet German Icewine will typically be very crisp and clear.
The very first Eiswein was produced in Germany in 1794. Franconian monks left their grapes too long on the vine…the grapes froze. The rest is history. Ironically, Canada is now the most renowned makers of superb Icewines!
Midnight in the Niagara Peninsula…groups of muffled and mittened figures crouch in pitch darkness by gnarled branches. It is cold, bitterly cold…Only the light of the Arctic moon shimmers on the snow. Commandos on a secret mission? No, just staff and volunteers picking precious frozen grapes to make Icewine!
Two very excellent wineries are Inniskillin and Pilliterri. Both come from the Niagara Peninsula of Canada. The area is a designated VQA (Vintners’ Quality Alliance) region like the French AOC.
Inniskillin’s name originates from the town of Enniskillen, Ireland. In 1688 the inhabitants of Enniskillen took up arms to defend their town against the threat of occupation by the forces of James II. The soldiers called the Inniskillingers Foot and Dragoons, made repeated aggressive expeditions to seek & destroy the enemy. They were so successful that they were incorporated into the army of William III, becoming “The Inniskilling Regiment”. They became the Royal Inniskillin Fusiliers in 1881. Grape varietals used to make Icewine include Vidal, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pillitteri Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2013 is a super Icewine made by this winery that was founded in 1988. When you taste this you are tasting the rich harvest of a magical icy Canadian winter. One frozen grape produces just one rich luxurious drop of Icewine. The grapes are plucked by hand usually at night. When temperatures sink to below –8°C for at least a few hours…that is the outdoor threshold needed before the frozen berries can be harvested, pressed & fermented in this case at 15C in stainless steel with 20% in French oak. Only 11.1% abv (alcohol by volume) with 219g/l of residual sugar but well balanced by 8.7g/l of acid. A ravishing cherry red hue entices while flavours of fresh raspberry, Amarena cherries and rhubarb explode on the palate. Candied lychees and caramel pleasure your palate with a long and pleasing finish. Some years ago when I was an International Wine Judge in Verona, Italy, I tasted this wine, gave it top marks and it won the Grand Gold Medal. Excellent with Key Lime Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream! Pillitteri Icewine is available in Fairprice Finest supermarkets.
Inniskillin Icewine Vidal 2014…The harvest for this wine began on January 5, 2015 with ideal temperatures of -10C. Under a full moon in the dead of night Vidal grapes were harvested at the Pratt Vineyard. On the nose aromas of tropical fruit like mango and pineapple seduce…while on the palate white peach, nectarine and candied lemon flavours are balanced by lively and crisp acidity. Only 9.5% abv with whopping residual sugar of 240g/l well balanced by 12.08g/l of acids. My friend, Donald Ziraldo who founded Inniskillin Winery always says with a mischievious chuckle, “When you drink Icewine you get the big ‘O’!” No prizes for guessing what the big ‘O’ is.
FOOD PAIRINGS: Think texture not just sweetness! Perfect with a variety of cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort blue cheeses and Foie Gras and Duck Rillette. Inniskillin Icewine is available in Culina, on SIA Inflight Sales and Changi Airport Duty Free shops.
An original poem by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Those who can survive
harsh and cold winters
Will enjoy sweet delights
in the warmth of summer
Zum Wohl! (traditional German toast to your Health!)