Ice is a big part of Canada. From ice skating and ice hockey in the winter to Tim Horton’s Iced Capps in the summer, Canadians spend a lot of time with the frozen stuff. None of these things are very specific to British Columbia however.
Which brings us to icewine.
Originating in Germany in the 1960’s, icewine is a sweeter wine, normally served as a starter or with dessert. As the name suggests, the production of icewine requires a hard freeze – in Canada temperatures of -8 degrees Celsius or colder – after the grapes are ripe. However, this freeze must occur early, before the grapes rot and fall from the vines, and must not be so severe that no juice can be extracted from the grapes. Often this leaves a window of only a couple of days to have that lucky frost occur – this is the tightrope that icewine producers walk. Get it right and the payoff is great…get it wrong and you just threw away acres of grape production.
With a warm climate in the summer, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is quickly becoming internationally recognized for the high quality of its wines. Many vineyards in this region are multiple award winners in various world competitions, and winery tours are becoming more and more popular every year.
However, thanks to the province’s favorable winter freezing conditions, BC wineries are also able to to make a name for themselves in the field of icewine. Canada is now the world’s largest producer of icewine and wineries across BC are leading this trend. While winery tours can be arranged almost year around, for tourists looking to sample BC icewines, it’s best to take in an icewine festival. Not only will a range of local wines be on offer but the atmosphere is hard to beat. Of note, Sun Peaks Resort in the BC interior holds an icewine winter festival every January. The mix of fresh snow, skiing and snowboarding, wonderful icewines and culinary treats makes for a great getaway.
A few notable wineries in BC include Mission Hill Family Estate, Quail’s Gate Estate Winery, and Cedar Creek Estate Winery. For more information about wineries in BC visit the the Wine BC website here.