By: Andrea Kaiser

Icewine is Canada’s gift of nature, a sweet nectar produced by allowing grapes to freeze on the vine and then pressing only the concentrated juice to be fermented into a luscious dessert wine. Growing up in the family wine business I had the luxury of savouring Icewine on most holidays and special occasions. However it was with the remaining mouthfuls days later that I often had the most fun experimenting and often experienced even greater enjoyment.

Lucky for me a large bottle of Icewine can be a challenge to appreciate straight up all in one night, as the intensity of flavour is revealed with just an ounce or two. So it was about two weeks after a family celebration that a bottle of ‘leftover’ Icewine first beckoned me to be re-opened. I hadn’t planned on ‘wasting’ this luxurious liquid on a pie but it seemed like the perfect thing to stir into the fresh local apple filling bubbling gently on the stove; and it was.

This simple act opened the door to the many recipes that would later reap the benefits of my generous hand with Icewine in the kitchen. My rationale: there are many liqueurs, brandies and whiskeys regularly stocked in restaurant kitchens across the world, so I often substitute Icewine where a sweet liqueur is called for. My summer sangria is sans the Cointreau and instead a Vidal Icewine lifts the taste profile of my peach sangria while a Cabernet Icewine is a must for my red concoction full with local berries. My favourite discovery in the kitchen: duck a l’orange and Icewine.

There are so many great ways to cook with Icewine both sweet and savoury but a special nod goes out to the one who introduced Icewine to the world of cocktails.

The classic – an Icewine Martini – one and a half ounces of cold Vodka shaken with a half ounce of Icewine, garnished with a sugar coated frozen grape. Quite simply, delicious. I am also a big fan of sparkling wine with an Icewine ‘dosage’. It’s like a Kir Royal, but better.

And each year during the Icewine Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake I can’t wait to bundle up for the annual Icewine Cocktail Competition when local bartenders take up the challenge to create the most amazing tribute to our Canadian gift of nature. The street is always buzzing with excitement to see who will have bragging rights. Last year Zee’s Grill won top honours with their ‘Orange Snow Berry’.

Shake up the following to try at home:
1 ounce Inniskillin Vidal Icewine
½ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce Raspberry Sour Puss
1 teaspoon orange sorbet
Garnish with raspberry soaked in icewine and gently rolled in white sugar.

Being in the wine business, admittedly my access to Icewine was and still is beyond that normally enjoyed, but with so many amazing ways to get delight from such a small bottle, it is worth the investment. And the beauty is, unlike a table wine, it can be stored chilled for up to eight weeks as the natural sugars act as a preservative, giving home entertainers ample opportunity to extend their pleasure derived from one bottle of this opulent wine. So yes, open your Icewine and take delight in your Icewine straight up with blue cheese, stir it into your favourite sauce or shake things ups and create a new libation for your next cocktail party!