The Nova Scotia Winter Ice Wine Festival is an annual festival started in 2007 to celebrate Nova Scotia's Internationally award-winning Ice Wines.
Winter scene of grape vines near Sheffield Mills, Annapolis Valley, NS
Because of our harsh winter climate, Nova Scotia has been having great success in making this increasingly popular wine.

Jost Vineyards was one of the first wineries in the valley to produce ice wines, starting in 1985. Since that time Nova Scotia wineries have been consistent in winning top honours in national and international competitions. Their 1999 Vidal Ice Wine won the award of Canada's Wine of the Year at the 2000 All Canadian Wine Championships. At a international competition for sparkling wines in France the L'Acadie Vineyards won silver for their 2007 Prestique Brut. The list goes on for awards won by Nova Scotia's wineries for this niche product.

Very few countries in the world have just the right climate for producing the grapes used for ice wines, Canada and Germany being the top two countries. In Canada, Ontario has been successful in producing this desired desert wine, but recently Nova Scotia has been having great success. Today, most if not all of the provinces wineries produce ice wines. Combine this fine wine with delicious local cuisine and no wonder we started the Winter Ice Wine Festival to celebrate it!

Ice Wine Harvest

A Winter's Frost on the Trees in the Annapolis Valley, NS
The unique qualities of ice wine make it a most popular dessert wine that is becoming more and more in demand. But what makes it different from other fine wines, why is it so special?

You see for a good ice wine the grapes have to be left on the vine until they are frozen or have reached a temperature of -8 degrees Celsius or lower before they are harvested. The grapes have to be as hard as marbles before they are any good for ice wines.

This freezing separates the water in the grapes from the sugar, flavour and acid components. The frozen water crystallizes which leave the other parts liquid drops which are very concentrated with sugar and flavour. These liquid drops are 2 - 3 times higher in sugar and flavour than grapes harvested in the fall. Once this is pressed it results in a sweet, aromatic and thick juice which is sold to the wineries for ice wines.

The harvest of the grapes is done at night before the morning sun can start to melt the grapes on the vine. If they start to melt they will loose some of their unique flavour. Even the pressing is done in a cold un-insulated building. In most cases now they use a mechanical harvested, but it still results in a very cold crew working the harvest.

They also have to be ready and on call usually during the Christmas break for the temperatures to be right. If left on the vine too long the grapes could become too heavy and fall off themselves, become too dehydrated or hungry birds might eat them. You also run the risk of them being buried under deep heavy snow. Most years in Nova Scotia the harvest can be done the end of December or early January.

Once the juice is collected it is tested. The sugar level must be at least 35%. The ice wine juice is then fermented which takes approximately six months.

Twenty-five tonnes of grapes will give the grower about 5,000 litres of juice. This will result in approximately 20,000 200ml bottles of Nova Scotia ice wine.

Ice wine is best served slightly chilled with dessert or sometimes as the dessert.

Winter Ice Wine Festival

Youtube Video NS Winter Icewine Festival By NovaScotiaWine, Published on Dec 16, 2010

 The Nova Scotia Winter Ice Wine Festival is held every year after the harvest of the ice wine grapes. This makes it usually in early February about the first week. The festival last for ten days and there are over forty special events held across the province. As the Annapolis Valley is excellent wine-making country with several fine wineries a big part of the events are held here in the valley.

All of our wineries and most of our fine restaurants take part. How can you go wrong when you have award-winning ice wines paired with delicious local cuisine made by our finest chefs?

Yes, during the festival many local restaurants offer special three to six course meals, of course accompanied with Nova Scotia ice wine. You may also take in special events like Ice Wine and Chocolate Tasting or Ice Wine and Cheese tasting with local and international cheeses. How about an evening of Spatzli, Cheese Fondue and Raclette topped off with ice wine and specialty coffees while sitting around a big bonfire?

Several of the wineries and accommodations offer special getaways during the winter ice wine festival. You may choose from overnight stays to several day Winter Ice Wine Experience Getaways. These getaways include tours, demonstrations, relaxation and of course fine food and splendid ice wines.

Other events include things like demonstrations on the making of ice wines, pruning presentations in the vineyards and of course sampling the various ice wines sometime on icy deck parties. There are sleigh rides through the vineyards, a guided snowshoe hike, and a toboggan ride down a 1000 foot hill! The return back up the hill is provided by a horse and sleigh.

The Nova Scotia Winter Ice Wine Festival is sure to provide something for everyone. Everyone, especially anyone who likes fine wines should plan to attend. You can check out the dates, times and events at the NS Ice Wine Festival Website.