Weekend Sip: The perfect sip for a polar vortex

The bottles: Inniskillin Icewine Niagara Estate (375 ml), $55 for 2017 Vidal, $80 for Gold Vidal 2016

The back story: What is the perfect sip for a polar vortex? Most folks would say a steaming mug of hot cocoa. But we think about wine — icewine, to be exact.

As it name implies, icewine is made when the weather turns icy. Specifically, it is made from grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine, a process that results in a concentration of flavors — we’re talking super-sweet wine. The icewine tradition comes primarily from Germany, though there’s evidence the Romans made a sip in this way. But today, Canadians have become prominent producers. In particular, Inniskillin, a winery with locations in Ontario and British Columbia, is credited with jumpstarting the Canadian icewine industry when it started production in 1984.

Now, Inniskillin makes a wide variety of icewines using all different grape varietals, from Riesling to Cabernet Franc. They even offer a sparkling version. But it is its wines made with the Vidal grape, a hybrid varietal, that are perhaps best known. The grape’s natural acidity is said to give the sip some structure and balance out all that sweetness. Inniskillin produces two versions of Vidal — a slightly more expensive one with oak aging, dubbed Gold Vidal, and a standard Vidal.

By virtue of its unique harvesting process, icewine is a sip generally in short supply. Inniskillin produces just 16,000 cases a year. The winery says demand has been on the rise in the last year, particularly from the U.S. and China.

What we think about them: You know how certain fruits take on a special sweet and luscious taste when they’re just at the point of being overripe? Now imagine that same taste in liquid form and you have the distinct appeal of icewine. Inniskillin’s Vidal wines are a solid introduction to this one-of-a-kind sip — they are intensely sweet without being cloying and they bring to mind the flavor of mangoes, peaches and pears.

How to enjoy them: Icewine pairs well with dessert and makes a nice accompaniment to a cheese plate, keeping in mind it is best served slightly chilled. Chefs also like to use it as a special flavoring in savory sauces, marinades and the like, the winery says. But don’t hesitate to enjoy Inniskillin’s icewine on its own — it is a great nightcap.

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