Everybody knows that Canada makes the best Icewine in the world. We did not invent Icewine – it is believed the first Eiswein was made in Germany in the 1700s – but year after year, we produce fabulous Icewines that garner numerous international awards. However, Sparkling Icewine was invented in Canada and is uniquely Canadian.
The story of sparkling Icewine goes back to 1988 and Canadian wine writer Konrad Ejbich. I had the pleasure of speaking with Konrad a few days ago and he was eager to tell the story of how it all began…
Back in 1988, Konrad was given a box of half bottles of tank samples of 1987 vintage Inniskillin Icewine. He put the bottles in his basement with the intention of drinking them soon. Three or four days later, he noticed a small stream of liquid trickling across his basement floor. After a short investigation, he found that one of the corks had blown right out of the bottle and that a few of the other corks had started to work their way out. Knowing that these were tank samples that had not been filtered and that presumably still contained some viable yeast, Konrad guessed that a second fermentation had begun. Curious as to what may happen, he tied the remaining corks down and waited. Not too long afterwards, the pressure built up in the bottles caused one of them to explode, so Konrad poured the remaining Icewine into much stronger Champagne bottles (after consuming the original contents), tied the corks down again and waited some more. At Christmastime, Konrad opened a bottle and tasted the wine. In his own words, “It was amazing! It was softer, richer, creamier, and foamy. It had a mellow texture and was not quite as sweet.”
For a while, Konrad had dreams of making a business out of crafting his own Sparkling Icewine and selling it to the world. He imagined riches and red Ferraris. He sat on the idea for a few years. In 1996, realizing he had no way of making his dream a reality, he wrote a column in Wine Tidings Magazine describing his discovery and putting a challenge out to winemakers to make sparkling Icewine on a commercial level. If they were successful, all Konrad wanted in return was a case of the wine.
In 1997, Magnotta was the first winery to make an Icewine sparkle with their release of Sparkling Ice. This wine was artificially carbonated and was not allowed to be labelled as VQA as there was no category for this style of wine. They were also not permitted to use the term Icewine, hence the name Sparkling Ice. This wine has been very successful for the company and they have won numerous awards for the wine.
Then, after extensive research and experimentation by Inniskillin‘s co-founder and winemaker Karl Kaiser, Ontario’s first VQA Sparkling Icewine was released with Inniskillin’s 1998 vintage, just in time to celebrate the Millenium. This wine was made with Vidal grapes and using the Charmat method where the second fermentation creates bubbles which are captured under pressure in a sealed stainless steel tank. The Vidal Sparkling Icewine was such a huge success, that they continue to make this unique wine.
Pillitteri Estates Winery has also released a few sparkling Icewines using the Charmat or Cuve Close method. They currently have the 2004 Sparkling Vidal Icewine available at the winery that sells for $60/375 ml. While Inniskillin has only made a Vidal Sparkling Icewine, Pillitteri has also had a 2008 Cabernet Sparkling Icewine that they are now sold out of.
Sparkling Icewine are the most food friendly of all the Icewines as the bubbles cut the sweetness of the wine allowing a wider range of pairing choices. Pair Sparkling icewine with spicy dishes, rich cheeses with strong flavours, such as blue cheeses, grilled scallops and a fruit sauce, chicken satays with a peach dipping sauce, or with fruit based desserts or creme brulee.
Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine: A beautiful golden yellow colour with streams of tiny bubbles rising to the top of the glass. Pronounced aromas of ripe yellow stone fruit (apricot, nectarine, peach), fresh pineapple, honey, and a touch of cinnamon. A luxurious and creamy texture with enough acidity and effervescence to cut through the sweetness. A very long length. Available at the LCBO for $69.95/375 ml.