How to Throw a NYE Icewine Tasting Party

An open fire and a glass of icewine warms your outsides and your insides at Niagara Icewine Festival. Photo courtesy of Wine Marketing Association of Ontario.

An open fire and a glass of icewine warms your outsides and your insides at Niagara Icewine Festival. Photo courtesy of Wine Marketing Association of Ontario.

A few years back I had the pleasure of penning an icewine story for Zoomer Magazine the premise of which was how to host an icewine tasting party on New Years Eve. The idea, simple and yet elegant, is fitting for any time of the year but with wineries in Canada currently in the throes of the annual harvest, the theme is perfect for holiday entertaining.

Triggered by the recent deep freeze, just last week frozen grapes were harvested at Henry of Pelham in St. Catherines three weeks earlier than last year.

Triggered by the recent deep freeze, just last week frozen grapes were harvested at Henry of Pelham in St. Catherines three weeks earlier than last year.

It’s cool too that you can follow up your home bash by attending the Niagara Icewine Festival, which kicks off January 13th. Drawing some 40,000 revellers a year, the event commences with a big gala at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls and continues over the next three weekends across the Niagara region. For $40, a Discovery Pass will get you eight culinary + wine pairing tasting experiences at participating wineries; designated drivers can pick up a non-alcoholic pass for $30.

Beyond tastings there’s plenty to see, sip and savour at street festivals, dinners, dances, live entertainment, brunches and after parties held at different locales. Head to www.niagarawinefestival.com  to check out the brochure and start planning.

Interestingly, although Canada is recognized as the biggest and best producer of icewine on the planet, many folks are not familiar with our gift to the world. How to Host an IceWine Tasting Party gives you all the deets so you can start off 2017 by raising a glass (or two) to our nation's 150th Birthday Celebration!


A few years ago, I received a bottle of icewine for Christmas. Although I was wowed when I opened the gift bag, I never opened the bottle itself. A dry red enthusiast who prefers coffee with my cake, I had no idea what to do with a sweet wine. And so I re-gifted it to a girlfriend who, sadly, may have passed it along as well. “Icewine is largely misunderstood in Canada,” says Debi Pratt, manager of public relations at Inniskillin Wines. “In the past, we marketed it as sweet when, in fact, it is a balance of natural acidity and sweetness. Also, we categorized it as a dessert wine, which is misleading; icewine pairs beautifully with a variety of savoury foods.” 

Icewine is made from grapes that are frozen on the vine and then pressed while still frozen. The water within the grapes freezes, but the sugars don’t so the juice extracted is highly concentrated. Yields are low (you’d get about 10 times more if you were making table wine), which partially explains the premium price. Another reason you pay big bucks for the little bottle is that the making of icewine is risky. Grapes left to hang are vulnerable to birds, disease and unpredictable climate, any of which can damage or destroy the crop. As well, some vintners increase the risk by harvesting grapes only after they’ve gone through multiple freeze-thaw cycles.

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This articles was published in Zoomer - Dec 2014 to read the full article please Click here for PDF version