4 Things to Know About BC Ice Wine

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As the second largest wine region in Canada, the Okanagan Valley produces a large variety of delicious wines. Although our region is known for rich red wines, refreshing fruit wines, and wonderful white wines, it also provides the perfect climate for spectacular ice wines. Ice wine is a delicious desert wine perfect for anyone with a bit of a sweet tooth. Here’s what you need to know about BC ice wines, courtesy of the staff at the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos.

1. What to Pair With BC Ice Wine

Charcuterie & cheese platter at Liquidity Bistro in Okanagan Falls. Photo: Rosalyne Buchanan

Charcuterie & cheese platter at Liquidity Bistro in Okanagan Falls. Photo: Rosalyne Buchanan

The sweetness of ice wine makes it a perfect pairing for strong cheeses. Blue cheese, hard and aged cheese, and goat cheese make a lovely complement to the power flavours of the wine. Lighter cheeses do not work as well as a pairing, as the flavor will simply be overwhelmed by the wine. If you are looking to serve ice wine with hors d’oeuvres, choose salty options such as salty nuts, antipasto, or black olives. The salt enhances the delicious fruit flavors of the wine, and the wine’s sweetness softens the salty foods. Because of its sweetness, ice wine is often served with a desert course. When choosing a desert, avoid choosing something that is overly sweet. Match ice wines with dark chocolate or less-sweet fruit based deserts to get the best pairing.

 2. How BC Ice Wine is Made

Frozen ice wine grapes. Photo: Mya via Flickr

Frozen grapes. Photo: Mya via Flickr

Ice wine is made when the grapes are harvested after they have frozen on the vine. The freezing of the water in the grapes makes for a much more concentrated and sweet wine than those harvested normally. The grapes are harvested and pressed while frozen, making timing a critical factor of producing this delicious variety. When the water in the grapes freezes, it leaves more concentrated sugars and flavours to be released during the pressing process. This method of wine-making produces significantly smaller batches than other wine varieties. In order to be ice-wine certified in BC, grapes must be harvested at -8°C (17.6°F) or colder, have had no artificial refrigeration, and no added sweeteners used to reach the required 100 grams (3.5 ounces) per litre of residual sugars.

3. The History of BC Ice Wine

Ice wine grapes at Inniskillin Winery. Photo: Kasia/flickr via Flickr

Icewine grapes at Inniskillin Winery. Photo: Kasia/flickr via Flickr

Ice wine has been produced in Europe for several hundred years, however did not begin to gain popularity in North America until the 1970s. The first Canadian ice wine made commercially available was in Peachland in 1978. This initial batch was created in 1972 by German born Walter Hainle, and was the result of an early frost, rather than a planned ice wine harvest.  Canadian winters provide consistently below-freezing temperatures that are hugely beneficial to ice wine makers, and Canada (along with Germany) has become one of the world’s largest ice wine producers. Canadian ice wines became world recognized in 1991 when Inniskillin Wines won the Grand Prix d’Honneur, becoming the first Canadian winery to win a major international award.

4. Which BC Wineries Make Ice Wine  

Wine barrels at Mission Hill Estate Winery in Kelowna. Photo: Rosalyne Buchanan

Wine barrels at Mission Hill Estate Winery. Photo: Rosalyne Buchanan

If you are looking to try some of the amazing BC ice wines available, below is a list of wineries in our region that produce varieties of these delicious wines:

Gehringer Brothers Estate WineryInniskillin WineryJackson-Triggs WineryK Mountain VineyardsMission Hill Estate WineryMount Boucherie Estate WineryNk’Mip CellarsPeller EstatesQuails’ Gate Estate WinerySee Ya Later RanchSoaring Eagle Estate WinerySummerhill Pyramid WineryTinhorn Creek Vineyards, and Willow Hill Winery.

Have a favourite BC ice wine? Let us know in the comments below!