One way to enjoy the winter, where I live, is to go to the annual Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. This year, six wineries joined together and all events were held at Domaine de Grand Pré. The first weekend the theme was savoury food pairings and this past weekend the focus was on sweet pairings.
Icewine is a special treat produced in extraordinary conditions. Ripe grapes are left to hang on the vine until the temperature reaches at least -8 ºC (17 ºF).This means that they are usually harvested in December. Some years it may not be possible to harvest until January. The grapes are then hand harvested and pressed at night. Because the water in the grape is frozen, the juice that is extracted is highly concentrated and very sweet. It takes 10 times more grapes to produce ice wine than it does to produce wine.The grape must is required to be a minimum of 35 degrees Brix. Because of the sweetness, the fermentation takes a long time.
The result is an amber-coloured nectar with notes of orange peel, lychee, and apricot. In Nova Scotia most icewine is produced with Vidal, Ortega or New York Muscat. Despite the sweetness, Nova Scotia icewines are still able to maintain a good acidic backbone which creates a well balanced wine. The very difficult conditions and low yields mean that icewine is an expensive product, however it is certainly a wonderful treat for special occasions. Icewine is sweet enough to pair well with desserts or it can be dessert itself. It can also pair nicely with savoury pates and strong cheeses.
When I began this post earlier this week I had intended to go to the final day of the Icewine festival in order to finish this entry. Unfortunately, and a little ironically, a combination of snow, freezing rain, a flash freeze warning and high winds caused it to be cancelled.
Since I was unable to get to the Icewine this weekend I am going to write about two other winter products.
The first is actually a strong cider, called Olde Port of Halifax, made by Tideview Cider. It was made with heirloom apples that were frozen and pressed to yield a sweet syrup, which was then fermented with select yeast to allow it to reach 18% alcohol. It was then aged in oak barrels for 4 years. While still maintaining apple character, it has layers of complexity with vanilla and coconut notes. As there were only 2600 bottles produced, this is a rare find. It is very mellow without being overly sweet and would be a perfect match for strong cheeses.
I enjoyed mine in an Icewine glass from Nova Scotia Crystal. They have created a special glass for Icewine, which comes in various designs. My glass is from the Windsor collection.
The second wine that I tried was the Martock 2011 from Avondale Sky Winery. It is a late harvest wine made from Vidal grapes. Paler than an ice wine, it has bright yellow gold hue. On the nose there are intense notes of dried apricot and honey. Smooth and viscous on the palate, it has ripe apple and citrus flavours with persist in a long finish. The strong acidic backbone balances the sweetness nicely. This wine will pair well with strong cheeses and fruit-based desserts that are not overly sweet, such as apple crisp. This wine is named after a popular ski hill in Nova Scotia, so it may be the perfect sipper for watching the Olympics.