An old friend who spends time in Canada visited yesterday. He came laden with gifts including a good Riesling for the grown ups, and maple syrup and jelly beans for the kids. The sweetest present of all though was the bottle of Niagaran Ice Wine he was keen to taste with me, an Estate Bottled Riesling from the Bosc family of Chateau des Charmes.
Chateau des Charmes was established by Paul Bosc, a graduate of the University of Burgundy and the latest in a long line of Alsatian winemakers. He moved to Canada from France in the 1960′s and, after studying the Niagara Peninsula for 15 years concluded that the soil and climate of the area were ideal for fine wine production. Château des Charmes’ vineyards are positioned south of Lake Ontario and north of the Niagara Escarpment at 44 degrees latitude.
As Hugh Johnson has observed “Canada was discovered, in fine wine terms, in the 1970′s when old fears and prejudices about which vines could survive were tossed aside. The formidable know-how that had been accumulating in new wine districts around the world provided answers to problems that had seemed insuperable. Paul Bosc became the first to plant a wholly vinifera vineyard. Award winning VQA estate wines include Icewine, late harvest riesling, an impressive range of both white and red varietals as well as méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines.”
Paul is joined by his wife Andrée, his son, Paul-André and his wife Michèle who represent the sixth generation of winegrowing expertise (pictured).
The wikipedia content for Ice wine is actually well worth a look (here) and places this bottle in its historical and geographical context.
As for the wine itself, it was a glorious and vibrant gold that, somewhat ironically, radiated warmth. We were struck by the good acidity that counterbalanced the sweetness and prevents sweet wines from being cloying. On the nose it was intense and redolent of honeysuckle and tropical fruits. This was confirmed on tasting with layer after layer of mandarin, papaya and mango. There was a slight spiciness like a good olive oil and this was enhanced by the viscosity of the wine, sumptuous but not unctuous. A real treat.