Rarely have dessert wines vanished from Drinkhacker HQ so quickly as Inniskillin’s Ice Wines (or Icewines). Traditionally made icewine from Canada, these low-alcohol, high-sugar, high-addiction-level wines vanished in days.
Icewine is a very sweet and flavorful wine made from grapes that are left on the vine until winter’s frost arrives, freezing the grapes only after temperatures hit -8 Celsius and stay there for some time. The frozen, ultra-ripe grapes are harvested and fermented, leaving a preciously small amount of actual wine from the harvest: Pound for pound, you get less than 15% the amount of wine from frozen grapes as you do from regularly harvested ones. The sweetness is tricky: You may think you’re drinking a heavily fortified wine like port, but these wines land at between 9 and 11.5% alcohol, considerably less than most table wines.
Icewine can be made from a variety of grape varietals, and I tried a number of them for this review. All come in 375ml half bottles (prices listed are also for 375ml versions) and are designed to be served very cold (which makes sense). These wines come from the Niagara Pennisula in Ontario.
2007 Inniskillin Riesling – A classic dessert wine, very fresh and crisp, with flavors of apricot, peach, and flowers. As with many icewines, it’s the honey that keeps you coming back, and this Riesling is perhaps the most easy-drinking of all the icewines I tried. Very refreshing, this is an awfully hard bottle to put down. 9% alcohol. A / $85
2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc – This traditionally hearty and rough red grape makes for an icewine that is, surprisingly, very similar in flavor to the Riesling, with that same super-sweet fruitiness but tricked out with red berry notes. Cabernet Franc — who knew you could turn it into something like this!? Those strawberry/raspberry characteristics are interesting, but I found myself longing more for the crisp simplicity of the Riesling. 9.5% alcohol. B+ / $100
2005 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal – Another spin on this theme, the Vidal grape (hugely popular for icewine) traps the naturally-occurring carbon dioxide that comes with fermentation and bottles it up, Champagne style. It’s very alarming to smell and taste such amazing sweetness alongside effervescence like this, but it grows on you. The carbonation is pretty mild, and it fades away after less than an hour in the glass, leaving a straightforward honey, apple, and flowery finish. 11.5% alcohol. A- / $75