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The Niagara region's Icewineries: wine tasting in a new light

Wine tours have long been popular in the realm of unique vacations; but for anyone who'd like to take the novelty of such a getaway to a whole new level, Canada's Niagara region - and its famous Icewineries - await.

One of the most intriguing aspects of a wine tour is learning the history behind a type of wine, a winery or a region that yields the wine - none of which are an exception when it comes to Icewines. The discovery of Icewine in 1794 was accidental when, out of necessity, winemakers in Germany pressed frozen grapes - the resulting juice of which was found to have an unusually high concentration of sugar. It wasn't until the mid 1800s, however, that the winery intentionally began to produce Icewine for distribution.

The production of Icewine did not extend to Canada until 1973, after which time the venture proved to be a huge success. Today, Canada - and particularly, Ontario's Niagara Peninsula region - is the largest producer of Icewine, a product that's often referred to as "liquid gold". That's because the juice from Icewine grapes composes about one-fifth the amount that would be extracted from unfrozen grapes. For instance, if the grapes of an unfrozen vine produced a bottle of wine, the grapes of a frozen vine would produce just one glass of Icewine.

The Icewine harvest begins in the winter months - typically, in December - once temperatures drop below -10 to -13 degrees Celsius and grapes have frozen on the vines. Natural freezing concentrates the sugars, acids and extracts, thus intensifying the flavors of the juice; then, as the frozen grapes are pressed, the highly concentrated, sweet juice is extracted. The natural water portion, however, remains in the grape skins as ice crystals. The juice is then fermented very slowly over the course of several months to produce Icewine. Typical grapes used for ice wine production include: Riesling Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and the red grape Cabarnet Franc.

The Niagara region hosts an ice wine festival every January to celebrate the fruit of each year's harvest. Locals and tourists alike can indulge in ice bars, frozen art exhibits and tours through Niagara's famous wine routes - alongside, of course, a taste of some of the region's most exquisite Icewines.

If you're considering taking an Icewine tasting tour in the Niagara region this winter, rest assured that there are plenty of fantastic options for accommodation in Niagara Falls. The Doubletree Resort Lodge & Spa Fallsview, Niagara Falls, for example, features an award-winning VQA wine list, including Icewine by the glass or bottle at Buchanans Chophouse. So you can get started on the wine tasting before you even hit the festival or your tour!

By touring Niagara's Ice wineries, you'll learn about the unique processes involved in making Icewines, as well as have the opportunity to try some of the most exceptional wines in the world. So what are you waiting for? Take the novelty of a wine-tasting tour to a whole new level - experience the Niagara region's famous Icewines.

About the Author

Martin McAllister is an online freelance journalist. He lives in Scotland.

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