With the holiday festivities in full-swing and my party planning and Christmas Day preparations already behind schedule, I always like to have an original yet fail-safe hostess gift or idea that I can use in a pinch. A quality bottle of wine is always welcome wherever I go, but for that extra special person or that event where you want to make a more lasting impression - I suggest a bottle of icewine.
The production of icewine originally started in the cool wine regions of Germany in the mid-1700s and, because of climatic considerations, icewine is ideally suited to Canadian wine regions.
The grapes that have been chosen for the icewine production are left on the vine well into the winter months. The resulting freezing and thawing of the grapes dehydrates the fruit, and concentrates the sugars, acids, and extracts in the berries, thereby intensifying the flavors and adding complexity to the wine.
Once the grapes are deemed ready, they are picked in the middle of the night, by hand, in their natural frozen state. The frozen grapes are pressed in the extreme cold. The water in the juice remains frozen as ice crystals, and only a few drops of sweet concentrated juice drips from the crushed grapes. This is the juice that is fermented into a sweet wine, and is often described as the "Golden Nectar of Winter".
If you are interested in more information about icewine and which Canadian icewines have won international competitions, check out some of the Canadian winery websites such as Inniskillin and Peller Estates. Both of theses sites give great cocktail and food recipes that use icewine and which could be written on a pretty card and tied to the icewine bottle for an added "gift". There is also an ice wine festival in the Niagara region every year in late January. If you are an active or learning oenophile, you might want to plan a winter getaway to the wine region and participate in some of the events. Refer to the Niagara Icewine Festival for schedules and event descriptions.
If you want to also treat yourself, try drizzling icewine over vanilla ice cream and stewed apples/pears or even this recipe for Icewine Sorbet and White Peaches. Enjoy!
Thanks to Inniskillin, Peller Estates and Epicurious for the inspiration :)