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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, January 12 2010. 14:03

Canadian Icewine- Seven Year Itch

The Canadian High Commission Delhi organised another tasting of Icewine, apparently after a gap of seven years after it had first ventured into perhaps its finest and the world-famous wine, when it had organised a similar event in conjunction with the Delhi Wine Club at the residence of the Commercial counselor, writes Subhash Arora

Photo :: Adil Arora

There was a time when most Indians thought icewine was wine to be drunk with ice. Hopefully, we have moved ahead. Canada produces some of the best icewine- certainly the most consistent every year as the temperatures drop to less than -10°C every year; icewine is produced by leaving appropriate grapes like Vidal and Riesling on the vines till it gets colder than -8° C and then ferment he sugar concentrated grapes gradually. This is not always possible in the icewine producing areas of Germany and Austria which might take umbrage to the statement; in good, cold winters one could cherish the best icewine from their Riesling grapes.

The Canadian High Commission had dug its feet in snow and organised the tasting of Canadian wines with focus on icewine from Thomas and Vaughan in conjunction with the Delhi Wine Club precisely seven years ago, given a grace period of 3 weeks (on 12th December, 2002). Unsurprisingly, it had charmed, delighted and impressed every invitee.

For details of the event, read the article:

In fact, a food importer who was invited by the High Commission was so enthralled by the prospects that he placed an immediate order, raising hopes that icewine will hit the Indian palates soon. Unfortunately, the importer defaulted on the payment, bringing shame to the Indian importing community. Whether or not he finally paid up is a matter of conjecture.

Seven years Later

The organisation of the event last Tuesday was another step taken by the High Commission to promote the signature Canadian wine, popularized and internationalized by Don Ziraldo who was the first person to get a winery license in 1975 after the ban on wineries was imposed in 1929. He introduced icewine in the Inniskillin winery he co-owned in the Niagara Peninsula in the late seventies-early eighties.

‘About a month ago we were approached by Ramesh Srinivasan, Professor of Hospitality Management at Humber College in Toronto. He was coming to India to train some sommeliers in some local hotels and asked us if we could help him organise a tasting of icewine,’ says Sudha Kshatriya, the Agriculture and Food Counsellor for 5 months at the Canadian High Commission. ‘Though the time was rather short, we were keen to help him and were able to facilitate the wines and organise the event at the Canada Club.’

It helped to get the wine complimentary from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the monopoly marketing agency for Ontario, of which Ramesh is a Director.

Ziraldo vs. Ziraldo 

The icewine industry seems to have come a full circle with Ziraldo who introduced the first wine in his then owned Inniskillin, harvested grapes from his new winery Ziraldo Wine Estate in 2007 and coincidentally released the first vintage on November 21 simultaneously in Canada, Paris and Hong Kong. Inniskillin was taken over by Vincor Canada which in turn became a part of Constellation Brands, which made Ziraldo’s role unenviable in the new scheme of things.

Both the Inniskillin 2006 and Ziraldo 2007 were luckily available for a private tasting. Ziraldo who has been a fan of the hybrid grape variety Vidal, but the Ziraldo Riesling 2007 at the tasting was young and yet full of zesty flavour and crisp acidity- a sure competitor to Inniskillin, which one ‘The Premio Speciale Gran Vinitaly 2009’, the top award for the ‘Concorso’ at the 17th Vinitaly International wine competition last March. What was also unique in Ziraldo icewine was the low alcohol of 8% and yet an excellent balance, making it a wine to watch out for in a decade and yet drinkable even now.

Inniskillin 2006 has the great example set by Ziraldo- a wine that made a mark internationally. In fact, Ziraldo had shrewdly created a Gold label which was sold to the affluent Japanese for a colossal $100+ a bottle. This wine had tropical flavours changing the character like a chameleon. Extremely long and persistent, it is till top of the line icewine that would last for decades.

Go Canada !

Canada has also been the pioneer of making excellent icewines from the red Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the former making a more palatable wine for the Indian taste, due to slightly lower tannic flavour. However, Vidal and Riesling are the future of Canadian icewine in India, once the Indians develop a taste for dessert wines- in the meantime, they would be good mates for spicy Indian food- albeit very expensive.

Despite the mark Canadian icewine has made in the world, India is still lagging behind, not only due to heavy taxes but also a lack of dessert wine culture. Despite a token presence in a few 5-star deluxe hotels which do not really push the sale as they are not geared to promote it conceptually, there needs to be a constant education and promotion from the Canadian Industry with the High Commission being the facilitator.

Unknown to most wine drinkers-even in Canada, the still wines have improved their quality tremendously during the last decade. Canada will do well to use the promotion of their still wines through the icewine route as well. But a constant presence and the buzz is required. Sudha is very happy about the success of the tasting-21 persons showed up to enjoy 6 icewine labels including the Ziraldo and Inniskillin, with cheese and chocolate cake. One hopes the next one will be organised sooner than seven years!

For some of the earlier articles, visit:

Subhash Arora


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