Icewine is a sweet dessert wine after grapes are left to freeze on the vine. Freezing super-concentrates the sugar in the grapes, resulting in a very intensely sweet and grapey aperitif. The Germans invented it, way back when. In Germany it’s an occasional thing, dependent on a sudden onset of cold. Ontario’s wine region reliably goes from balmy to frigid in fairly short order. Over the past fifteen years or so our vintners have gone from turning it out in luxury quantities to overproducing. Ontario icewines are usually made from sweet white grapes, like the vidal, but now some brilliant soul has decided to ask the question: “What happens when we let red grapes freeze and turn them into wine?” I recently had the chance to drink the answer, in the form of Henry Of Pelham’s 2006 Cabernet Franc Icewine. Now, I like me some regular icewine, but even as a fan of the stuff I have to concede that it’s cloyingly sweet and that a little goes a long way. The Cabernet Franc? Wow. A much lighter sweetness, decadent without being deadly.
Locals can find it at a Vintages or well-stocked L.C.B.O. Those outside the paternalistic embrace of our socialized liquoring-up system will have to make their own inquiries. It’s something you want to uncork at a cozy party with your most deserving friends and/or relations, so ‘tis the season and all that.