Canadians World Leaders in Ice Wine — and Very Large Wine Glasses

ice wineThe Canadians are at it again. This time they’ve grabbed the attention of the wine world by setting a Guinness World Record for the Largest Filled Wine Flute. Yes, as the kick-off to the 2011 Niagara Icewine Festival, “38 Ontario ice wine makers and winery proprietors gathered to pour seventy 375 ml bottles and six 200 ml bottles” into a giant flute designed by world-renowned stemware manufacturer Riedel.

Now that’s a lot of icewine. The article said it totaled 18 liters, which by my calculation represents about $3000 worth of icewine. “Wow,” I thought: “That’s one expensive publicity stunt.” But the good news is that the alcohol didn’t go to waste: it was sipped and enjoyed by all in attendance.

Canada’s Niagara Peninsula has earned a great reputation for its icewine. It’s the world’s largest exporter of the stuff, most of it going to Japan and the Far East.

It wasn’t always so. Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo of Inniskillin Winery got the idea to make icewine around 1975. “When we poured the first icewine in 1984,” says Kaiser, “people were drinking junk like Black Nun and Blue Tower.” After that, he says, people got into cheap French wine, and then because of their previous experiences with the sweet Old World wines, they were hesitant to try icewine. But that all changed in 1991, when Inniskillin’s Vidal Icewine won a Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. “The world took note,” he smiles.”

The folks in Ontario know how to have fun with their icewine. Every winter they stage a bang-up icewine festival, most of it “al fresco” in Ontario’s sub-zero (Celsius) winter. In the pictures I saw, everyone’s bundled up from head to toe, they’re all clutching glasses of golden icewine, and they’re all grinning like crazy. I guess the alcohol cranks up the old internal thermostat…

So once again, Go Canada! Here’s to ice, wine, and adventurous Canadians. Cheers!

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