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by Fred McMillin
for March 30, 2000

 

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Inniskillin Riesling Icewine  

The Good News

Germany's most rare and expensive wine is Eiswein (ice wine). It is made from frozen grapes; is very, very sweet and shows great character.


The Bad News

BUT, one must pay unbelievably steep prices for ice wine.

...from Robert Parker, Jr.'s Wine Buyer's Guide


The Solution

To reduce those prices, we need more production. Where else can one obtain frozen wine grapes regularly? Eastern Canada. Their vintners didn't just fall off the turnip wagon last week. Eastern Canada has become the largest producer of Ice Wine in the World! Germany's Eiswein is made from the Riesling; Canada's Inniskillin 1998 Icewine also is made from the Riesling...at $65 (375 ml.), well below the German counterpart. Inniskillin?? Here's its story.


The Thrillin' Inninskillin

Donald Ziraldo The son of Italian immigrants, Donald Ziraldo, (pictured), met Austrian-born biochemist Karl Kaiser in college in Canada. Against all odds, they obtained the first winery license granted in Ontario in over 40 years, planted Riesling vines just north of Niagara Falls, and produced their first icewine in 1984.


A Vintage for the Birds

Now they had planned to start a year earlier. The grapes ripened nicely and temperatures were dropping toward freezing. Suddenly "a black cloud of starlings dropped out of the sky and devoured the entire crop in 30 minutes." By the next year they owned a full set of protective nets for the vines.


Our Wine of the Day

1998 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine, $65 (375 ml.), (pictured)
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Winemaking—The temperature was around 13 degrees F. on December 23, 1998. The partly-frozen grapes were picked and processed in five presses all at night. By the time the sun rose, the nectar had been collected, ready for a long, slow fermentation. Much of the water in the juice remained in the press as ice crystals. Sugar levels—At harvest, the grape juice was over 40% sugar. Fermentation consumes sugar, so the finished wine's sugar content was around 20%. Balancing acidity—Icewine is noted for its high acidity. This 1998 had a little over 1% acids, compared to less than 0.7% in your typical table wine.
Contact—Pam Hunter, (707) 963-8473, FAX (707) 963-4758


Postscript

A Chilling Note: Why such a cold topic today? On this date 133 years ago, the USA bought Alaska from Russia.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created March 2000

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