I also paid a little visit to the LCBO another uniquely Canadian institution. Canada, traditionally, was a bit conflicted about sinful things like alcohol, so in most provinces, sales of alcoholic beverages are tightly controlled by the government. LCBO stands for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The Quebec equivalent is the SAQ, the Societe des Alcools de Quebec (sorry, no accents on this keyboard), and in British Columbia it is the BCLDB, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. These shameful products are usually sold out of dull, generic government buildings. On the other hand, provinces like Ontario and BC are more and more producing fine wines and are justifiably proud of them.
I ran into another wine aficionado just before coming to Toronto which reminded me of my interest in ice wines. Ice wine (Eiswien in German) was invented in Germany, by wineries in the Moselle valley. Sometimes, if you let your grapes fully ripen in late fall, which gives you those luscious late-harvest wines, you get caught by an early frost which ruins the grapes by the time they thaw out. But sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century vintners started to crush the grapes when they were still frozen which gives a highly concentrated juice as the water is taken out in the form of ice crystals. The result is a sweet, completely natural wine, balanced by good acidity. Other sweet wines, like Sauternes, are created by a fungus, referred to as "noble rot" that causes the skin of the grapes to degrade and some of the water to evaporate, again resulting in a more concentrated juice.
The two main nations that produce ice wine are Germany and recently, Canada. So I dropped by the LCBO and picked up a couple of bottles of ice wine to take back to Mexico with me. Very little of this wine is exported and, as far as I know, none to Mexico! I also picked up what I hope will be a good Barolo to go with the Christmas turkey:
Ice wine is traditionally made with the Riesling grape, but in Canada is often made with the little-known Vidal blanc grape:
Vidal blanc (or simply Vidal) is a white hybrid grape variety produced from the Vitis vinifera variety Ugni blanc (also known as Trebbiano Toscano) and another hybrid variety, Rayon d'Or (Seibel 4986). It is a very winter-hardy variety that manages to produce high sugar levels in cold climates with moderate to high acidity.Ice wine is not cheap as the whole crop has to be picked all at once, often in the pre-dawn so the grapes are still frozen when they are crushed. Save it for a special occasion!