Mark Torrance and Jason Parsons are men on a mission. Their task? Torrance, the estate manager at Peller Estates Winery (located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario), and Parsons, the executive chef at Peller Estates Restaurant, are educating wine drinkers, home cooks and professional chefs alike about ice wine. They say the sweet delicacy, which is made from frozen grapes, shouldn’t be cast solely as a dessert wine. And they’re trying to show that the wine is a versatile cooking ingredient.
“Chefs are looking for intense flavors, so it’s great to use in cooking,” says Parsons, who has taught a number of New York chefs about the wine. “We’ll use maple syrup or honey to add sweetness to food, but no one thinks of ice wine. Chefs will spend $80 on aged balsamic vinegar when ice wine works just as well.” Torrance shared with us even more facts about his passion.
Ice wine comes from grapes that are naturally frozen on the vine.
“The volume is 1/10th of what you get from table wine grapes,” says Torrance. “The grapes are pebble-hard. You get one drop of juice per grape.”
The flavor is more intense.
“Since you’re reducing the volume by so much, nothing is watered down. It’s a much more amped-up wine,” says Torrance.
“It’s been miscast as a sweet wine and pushed to dessert menus,” laments Torrance. “The acidity of ice wine is triple the acidity of table wine, so you get a really invigorating flavor that works well with dinner food.”