Thoughts on Icewine
Recently two of Summerhill’s icewines have received incredible honours. Our 2013 ‘Small Lot’ Semillon Icewine was awarded a perfect 100 point score and a Double Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Wine Competition, and our 2014 Chardonnay Icewine was the highest scoring wine at the 2017 Chardonnay du Monde Competition in France.
Icewine is a controversial subject in British Columbia. Canada’s international wine reputation has been historically all about Icewine, and quality wine producers here chafe at the notion that Icewine is the only relevant wine we can produce. But there is a legitimate case to be made that we can make Icewine here better than anywhere else on Earth, as these recent awards testify.
To make great Icewine, first you must be able to grow great wine, and then have a winter cold enough to freeze it naturally on the vine. When Icewine is pressed whatever is present in the fruit is concentrated. 2013 and especially 2014 were excellent vintages in the Okanagan Valley. Notice that we did not win these awards with 2011 Icewine, which was not a great vintage in the Okanagan Valley. It is not enough to be able to grow any old grapes and freeze them. (Note we made delicious Icewines in 2011 nonetheless.)
The other issue with Icewine is that drinking dessert wine is simply not a part of very many people’s regular habits. This is true across all wine markets in all territories. No one is drinking a lot of Icewine. But this does not mean we should not produce it. This is a product that the Okanagan Valley can serve to a niche global market. It is something rare, unique, and beautiful that we can produce here better than anywhere else. This will always be sought out by culinary adventurers and those wanting a prestigious souvenir of Canada to share with loved ones. Nor should we expect people to suddenly begin drinking more Icewine. It is so rich, so magnificent, and so expensive to produce, that its occasional use is part of its appeal. When I share a meal with friends and don’t want the evening to end, bringing out a bottle of Icewine to share as a cherry on top of the meal always creates an impactful memory, one that would be diminished if it was expected.
So cheers to beauty, cheers to indulgence, and cheers to the magnificent Okanagan Valley, one of the most unique and greatest wine regions of the world!