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Niagara toasts icewine

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Forty wineries from across Canada's Niagara region will participate in the Niagara Icewine Festival, Jan. 10 to 26.

Now in its 19th year, the festival offers three weekends of events including a grand gala, outdoor icewine celebrations in the town squares of Twenty Valley and Niagara-on-the-Lake, and wine and cheese seminars. The hallmark event of the festival is the tasting tours of some of the worlds best icewine producing wineries in the world. Each participating winery offers a special wine and food pairing as part of the festival.

Though icewine's roots can be traced to Germany, Canadian icewines are extremely popular and the Niagara region in the Ontario province has proven to be an ideal location for producing icewine. For icewine to be produced, select grapes are left on the vine through the winter months to concentrate the juice. The grapes are picked only when temperatures drop below a set freezing point for a sustained period of time.

The harvested grapes are kept frozen and quickly pressed to extract the juice. This process typically yields about 15% of the volume of a normal wine harvest. The fermenting stage for icewine is also unique and takes longer than traditional wine making, which, along with the low yield, contributes to icewine's pricing.

While know for being a sweet wine, the production of icewine not only intensifies the natural sugars of the wine but also the flavor of the grape, allowing wineries to develop various styles of icewine, which participants of the festival are able to experience firsthand.

More information on the 2014 Niagara Icewine Festival is available at niagarawinefestival.com.

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