Inniskillin Vidal Oak Aged is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, producing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes. This results in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. In order to produce this style of dessert wine, the freezing must happen before the fermentation, not afterwards.
Only healthy grapes keep in good shape until the opportunity arises for an winter wine harvest, which in extreme cases can occur after the New Year, on a northern hemisphere calendar. This gives the wine its characteristic refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity. When the grapes are free of Botrytis, they are said to come in "clean".
Production is risky (the frost may not come at all before the grapes rot or are otherwise lost) and requires the availability of a large enough labour force to pick the whole crop within a few hours, at a moment's notice, on the first morning that is cold enough. This results in relatively small amounts of ice wine being made world-wide, making ice wines generally quite expensive.
The pioneer status of the Inniskillin winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario led to their first vintage, produced in 1984 under the direction of the winery's Austrian-born co-owner Karl Kaiser, often being mentioned as Canada's first.
Though Pelee Island Winery and Hillebrand were Canada's first commercial producers, production began in 1983, Inniskillin Wines is considered the most widely known Canadian producer as the first Canadian winery to win a major international award, the Grand Prix d’Honneur at 1991 Vinexpo in France, with their 1989 Vidal (which was technically an illegal import into the EU, placing Canadian dessert wine on the world stage.
In contrast to most other wine-producing regions, Canada, particularly the Niagara Peninsula, consistently undergoes freezing in winter and has become the world's largest ice producer of this style of wine. Production in Canada is regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. If the sugar level in the grapes measures less than 35° Brix, then they may not be used for production, a minimum that is considerably higher than that of German Eiswein.
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