Wines of the Month

December, 2001

Ice Hot

A year has passed since my last piece on Icewines (December, 2000 Wines of the Month), so I guess I'm allowed to write another one. Last time, I told you more than you wanted to know about the methods used to produce these wines, so this month I'm not going to bore you with all details. Instead, I'll just tell you why the wines are so good at this time of year.

At first glance, Icewines and winter holidays don't exactly seem like the best match. Who wants to drink cold wines when it's cold outside? Well, I do, for one. Instead of focusing on the negatives, let's take a look why Icewines are a great choice at this time of year.

At their best, Icewines are a sweet, lush, luxurious treat, much like many of our holiday foods. They generally have plenty of flavor, so they don't seem out of place after other rich treats. And the freezing process concentrates both sugars and acids, helping the wines to stay in balance and to avoid becoming cloying.

Icewines are romantic. True Icewines are a labor of love. What else would motivate people to get out of bed in the middle of a freezing night to pick grapes? Besides the production methods, though, the wines themselves are mood-setters, whether paired with a perfectly-ripe cheese, served with a creamy dessert, or sipped by themselves, in front of a roaring fire.

For many people, the holidays serve as a reminder of all the people and things that make their lives special, and Icewines can certainly fit the theme. Icewines are special. Generally, Icewine is made in small quantities, and many are not widely available. The labor involved in producing these wines (not to mention the prices they command) serve to remind you that it's not just another day, and Icewine isn't just another wine.

But what about drinking cold wines on a freezing day? Thats what quilts and crackling fires are for.

Covey Run Riesling Icewine Yakima Valley '97 -- A good value from Washington State. The nose was closed at first, but it opens up with a little coaxing, showing pineapple, apricot, mineral, and honey notes. In the mouth, there are lush pineapple, apricot, and honey flavors, along with a mineral streak that lets you know you're drinking Riesling. Long lush finish, with more fruit and honey. There's just enough acidity to keep this wine from becoming cloying, but I wouldn't keep it for long. Another reason I wouldn't keep it for long is the cheap composite cork. Granted, this isn't an expensive Icewine, but it isn't cheap for a wine, either; Covey Run could have spent a few extra pennies on a decent cork. Paired beautifullw with a very ripe Vacherin Mont D'Or, which really emphasized the fruit. Ripe, juicy pears paired well in a completely different way, emphasizing the acidic structure. $24.99/375ml at the winery.

Vineland Estates Winery Vidal Icewine Niagara Peninsula '97 -- From Ontario, Canada, which has become a major producer of Icewines. This beauty offers a big nose of honey, pineapple, and lychee . More of the same on the palate, along with a very slight "canned" note to the fruit. Sweet and thick, but with decent acidity. Still, I'd recommend drinking sooner rather than later. The lingering finish emphasizes sweet, pure pineapple flavor, along with honey and lychee notes. Powerful, if slightly simple.

Jost Vineyards Muscat Icewine Nova Scotia '98 -- Another Canadian gem, but from a much less well-known region (for a profile of the winery, see the September, 2000 Wines of the Month). This wine was the worthy predecessor to a vintage that won a major Canadian competition. Boistrous aromas of orange blossom, apricot, and flowers, with a slight perfume quality. The floral note grew stronger over time. Offers flavors of oranges, apricots, and honey, with hints of lychee and apple. Full of flavor and quite sweet, but there's enough acid to keep things in balance. Long, persistent finish with orange, apricot, honey and perfume notes. CDN$49.99/375ml at the winery.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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Copyright 2001 by Marcel Lachenmann.