The Frozen Grape – Wines of Inniskillin

Inniskillin at Harvest. Co-Founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser.

Night picking in the Canadian winter, crushing frozen grapes for a few drops of sweet juice, attack of the local Starling population. Come learn about this and much more as we explore the amazing process of making Ice Wine.

Today we interview Inniskillin Co-Founder, Donald Ziraldo. Inniskillin is one of Canada’s premier wine estates and one of the worlds top producers of sweet wines.

Find more informaton about todays show at:

> Inniskillin Ice Wines:

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Show #39
(33:37 min 16 MB)

7 Responses to “The Frozen Grape – Wines of Inniskillin”

  1. 1 Derek Aug 2nd, 2005 at 7:10 am

    I enjoyed very much listening to the Icewine story….. very reminiscent of our struggle back in “old” Germany! The bit about those Starlings was interesting, seeing that we have the advantage that they migrate South over (or around) the Alps for the Winter. One less problem to deal with here, but losses are still terribly high even without those birds. What about hungry pheasants, deer and wild boar roaming through the rows, and you would need more than the Berlin wall to keep them out! The window of opportunity from 15th December through till 15th January is also very similar in Germany; end of January being the latest, but we have never produced in March. The natural decomposition of the acidity would be our problem. The cold spell of artic weather usually only comes once in that key time-frame, so vacation is out. Finding friends at night to help with the harvest on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve is a difficult task!
    The German “Eiswein” is now produced every year, weather permitting, especially in the countryside out of the protected Rhein or Mosel valleys where it can get down to those same ideal temperatures easier, the higher & cooler altitude of the Saar valley region being an exception. Hopes can be dashed if November is warm and wet, letting the grapes rot.
    There is one interesting observation in our areas: just before sunrise, the temperature drops about another 2 degrees, so we usually start picking not before 6am.

    Our praise also to the Canadian VQA stipulations for “real” Icewine. As mentioned by Don, there is a big quality difference against just sticking ripe grapes in the freezer, especially with regard to the maturing potential. Eisweins from good producers can mature well over 25+ years.
    Young Eisweins combine deliciously with sweet desserts, mature Eisweins (5+ years) as an apero (Martini Icewine makes me shiver!), with blue cheeses, fois gras….
    Eiswein or Icewine might well be expensive (the real stuff must be expensive!), but you only need very little of this concentrated nectar, so a half bottle goes a long, long way. Bottle not empty, and no guests to help out? No problem, it will stay fine and fresh for weeks (pour a few drops over the strawberries and ice cream on your own to make a feast out of a snack).

  2. 2 Kevin Aug 3rd, 2005 at 7:50 am

    I very much appreciated your comments, Derek. My partner and I were just discussing the bird issue and the necessity of netting the vines in Canada. He asked, “do they not have birds in Germany?” Your post answered the question.

    I, too, was averse to the idea of an Icewine Martini — until I had one. You should try it.

    Cheers to you and the Grape Radio crew.

  3. 3 donald Aug 12th, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    Are you a vintner in Germany?
    Donald Ziraldo

  4. 4 Jay Selman Aug 12th, 2005 at 8:10 pm

    Derek Vinnicombe is the owner at a very well known, respected exporter/consultant firms in Germany called Vinnicombe. He comes from a family with a history in the wine business.

    Here (in part) is his response when I asked him about a comparison between Canada and German wine.

    No recent tastings myself Germany vs. Canada, especially with the new generation of VQA Icewine from Canada, which could compare with Eiswein from Germany, especially as far as Riesling is concerned. Vidal is not planted in Germany (not permitted). Acidity lower?

    Acidity levels in German Eisweins are usually 8.5 – 9.5 g/l and higher.

    Legal minimum Brix for Eiswein in Germany corresponds to the Beerenauslese level, i.e.
    28 Brix (120 Oechsle) in Rhinhessen, Pfalz & Nahe regions;
    29 Brix(125 Oechsle) in Rheingau & Franken,
    26 (110 Oechsle) for Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and Ahr areas.
    34 Brix (150 Oechsle) is legal minimum for TBA in Germany.

    Good producers have a higher benchmark than legal minimums (same goes for Spätlese and the other predicate levels), which partly accounts for the large price differences between “supermarket” qualities from large wineries and fine estate wines from individual producers. The better estate-grown Eisweins from Germany have between 130-150 Oechsle,

    i.e. Ockfener Bockstein, 2004 Riesling Eiswein from Dr Fischer (Saar): 160 Oechsle with 11.6 g/l acidity.

  5. 5 Matt May 2nd, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Worth noting are the last few minutes of the show about the red wines coming out of the Okanagan.

    As someone who has done quite a bit of wine touring around Sonoma/Alexander as well as Australia, I have to say, some of the Okanagan wines present tremendous value.

    Of course, Washington State has a few well-known wineries such as Quilceda Creek, so it should be no surprise that a few hundred KM up, some great grapes are being grown, at *very* good price points.

    A few picks:

    Cedar Creek Platinum Meritage (#1 winery in Canada, 2 years in a row)

    Osoyoos Larose (a partnership with Chateau Larose in France, a classified 2nd growth)

    Black Hills Nota Bene (a Bordeaux style blend that is sells out every year)

    Burrowing Owl Meritage

    Sumac Ridge Pinnacle – the most expensive wine in this list year, and yet, only $50 CDN a bottle

    There’s other wineries doing great things as well – Poplar Grove, La Frenz, and others. Well worth a visit. Osoyoos and Kelowna are great vacation spots as well.

  6. 6 Rob C Oct 16th, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Do the German TBA wines get acidified (leagal limits?) or are there 8.5-9.5 g/L acids all natural??? Are they using Tartaric or some other acid add, naturally acidic fruit or other methods?

    Any recomendations on reds from the Osoyoos and Kelowna aria that are not BDX wines? Any white recs would be very weclcome also.


  7. 7 Marc Witham Mar 27th, 2009 at 5:40 am


    I love the show. Keep up the great work.

    I have a question about the interview with Inniskillan. Mr. Ziraldo talked about the balance of sugar and acidity. My experience in comparing Canadian ice wines
    and German Eiswein is that although the Canadian ones are good, the German ones have more acidity which makes all the difference. When I worked
    retail I got to try Inniskillan on a few occasions. It is a quality wine with lots of complexity. But I would compare them to a very high end gourmet
    candy. More sweetness than acidity.

    My theory is that the cause of this is that the Niagara being a continental climate with warmer summers, the grapes dont face the cold tempuratures
    needed to develop the acidity to balance off all that sugar. Although, they have the great lakes in the region.

    Two drawbacks: One, Inniskillan makes ice wines from more than just riesling which is a pretty acidic grape. So you have to only compare their riesling
    ice wines vs. the German ones. To my knowledge the Germany pretty much only make Eisweins with riesling.

    Two, individual palate. I do like acidity and perhaps my palate just craves more of it than others.

    I would welcome any comments on my theory.


    Marc Witham

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