Canadian origins: “Eiswein” harvests in Germany remained rare, and production was the result of freak conditions. Canadian icewine began with the same fortuitous roots. German immigrant Walter Hainle produced icewine in the Okanagan after an early and unexpected frost in 1972. Early attempts to replicate this process involved setbacks – some vintners lost entire crops to birds – but by 1991, a two-year-old Canadian Vidal was good enough to win the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo. (At right: A bottle of "Canada" ice wine produced overseas) (Canadian Vintners Association)
What VQA means: To use the term “icewine” on its label, products sold in Canada must meet Vintners Quality Assurance regulations covering grape varieties, harvest procedures, winemaking and testing. Violators can be charged in provincial court and are subject to fines up to $100,000. (At right: A bottle with a fake VQA seal) (Canadian Vintners Association)
History of icewine: Pliny the Elder, the Roman who lived in the first century AD, wrote of grapes being picked after a first frost. Whether that was deliberate or a means of salvaging a harvest, the practice dropped out of sight for 18 centuries. Ice-wine-style production turned up again in Germany with the 1829 harvest, after people noticed that grapes, originally left on the vine as animal fodder, produced very sweet must. (At right: An example of faux ice wine) (Canadian Vintners Association)
Where it’s produced: Icewine-type products are made in numerous countries, including places as far-flung as Israel, Croatia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States. (At right: a bottle of faux ice wine supposedly made from the Niagara Peninsula)
Sources: winesofcanada.com, Ontario Wine Society, appelationamerica.com, Vintners Quality Assurance, ontariograpes.com (Canadian Vintners Association)
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