About icewine
Icewine is a rare and exquisite product that had its beginning in Europe nearly two centuries ago. Germany was the first country to produce this wine, and as with most new ideas it occurred by accident.
Peasant farmers in Franconia were hit by a sudden, unexpected frost in the winter of 1794.
Instead of despairing of their frozen grapes, they followed their instinct for frugality and went ahead and made wine. The result was a small quantity of honey sweet nectar with balancing acidity that was unlike anything that they had ever produced. The wine – named Eiswein – was considered a treasure, but with the moderate German climate, perfect conditions for making this wine occurred only in very cold winters and so it remained, indeed, very rare.
Ontario is blessed, at least from the perfectionist winemaker’s point of view, with the kind of winter climate between November and February that ensures that Icewine can be made consistently well every year.
Nature’s gift for punishing us with polar winter temperatures is that they are perfect for making Icewine, because the grapes have to be left on the vine to freeze solid.  Temperatures must drop to at least –8 degrees Celsius before bunches can be harvested.
While the berries are frozen as hard as marbles, the juice is pressed out.  Since a grape contains eighty percent water, the action of pressing allows much of this water to be left behind as shards of ice, while small amounts of very concentrated juice, terrifically sweet and high in acidity, trickle ever so slowly from the press.
The Ontario grower, however, takes a big gamble leaving fruit on the vine after the normal harvest in September or October. The bunch of sweet grapes becomes prey to sugar-hungry birds and wild animals. Rain can cause bunch rot and wind and hail can strip the fruit off of the vine. The grapes must be handled with great care; they must not be allowed to thaw before they are pressed, otherwise the water will dilute the juice again. Not all grape varieties are suitable for making Icewine.
Experience has shown that the “thick-skinned” Vidal and Riesling are the best.
The Flavour
The flavour can range from the honeyed peach and apricot to more tropical fruits (mangoes, passion fruit) with a hint of toffee. And on the final taste, a refreshing, orange-like acidity cleans off the palate and prolongs the fruit flavours. Icewine is indeed a dessert in itself.
Ontario Icewine, currently produced by most wineries used to one of the best kept secrets in the wine world. Although a number of prestigious international awards had been won, right back from the early efforts in 1983, quality levels skyrocketed until 1991, when all 12 Ontario Icewines entered at the Intervin international wine competition in New York, won Gold.
No Icewines from any other country took Gold, and this was the largest contingent of Gold medals for a wine from any wine region in the world.
With many Ontario Icewines continuing to win awards at prestigious international competitions, Ontario Icewine is now firmly established in the elite and has become a unique tasting experience and the kind of wine that makes an ideal gift.
Pillitteri Estates Winery has focused much of its export efforts on creating an international market for their flagship product: Icewine.
Although Icewine is a signature wine for most Canadian wineries, Pillitteri Estates Winery has distinguished itself as the world’s leading estate producer of Icewine.
This position was achieved through the development of a successful on-site sales program and export market strategy. Within the last ten years the export market has increased from one to twenty one countries and currently accounts for approximately 40% of the winery’s total sales.
Icewine has put Canada and the Niagara Region on the world wine map as the leading producer of Icewine, consistently producing a high quality product every year. Icewine now competes globally with the best wines in the world and is gaining reputation as such. In great part, thanks to wineries such as Pillitteri that consistently are recognized for quality wines.
Pillitteri has won hundreds of awards from sanctioned International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) competitions, particularly for their line of Icewines. Most notably, Pillitteri was awarded the only North American medal at the 2005 Effervescents du Monde, an international wine competition recognizing the best sparkling wines in the world. Pillitteri won a rare Grand Gold Medal for its 2004 Vidal Sparkling Icewine, the Effervescents du Monde’s highest honour. The distinguished accolade further strengthens Canada’s image abroad as a producer of high quality wines and its ability to compete on the world stage.

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