The most popular wines produced are the red, white and sparkling wines. These are also known as light wines due to their alcohol context (approx 10-14% alcohol). The percentage is usually determined by volume. The aperitif, dessert and icewines typically contain 14-20% alcohol, which makes them richer and sweeter than the light wines.
Each winemaker ferments their grapes differently to produce refreshing, crisp white wine that may be enjoyed on their own or accompanying a meal. They can vary from very dry to rather sweet, should be served chilled, and go well with white meats, seafood, and fowl. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are two of the most popular white varieties. Other prominent varietals include Reisling, Pinot Grigio and Gewurtztraminer. White wine can be made from any colour of grape as the skin is separated from the juice during fermentation. A white wine made from a very dark grape may appear pink or 'blush' by allowing the juice of red grapes to be in contact with the skins for a very short time (usually only a couple of hours).
Red wine is made from red (or black) grapes, but its red colour is bestowed by a process called maceration, whereby the skin is left in contact with the juice during fermentation. Red wines are usually dry and go well with such main course dishes as red meats, spaghetti, and highly-seasoned foods. The most popular grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.
Icewine is a late-harvest wine made from grapes pressed while frozen. Three varieties of vinifera grape and Vidal may be used but usually it is made from Vidal and Riesling grapes. The harvesting of grapes for icewines starts after the 15th of November. Ontario's summer seasons ensures high sugars in the grapes and our winter season ensures a natural ice-wine harvest.
To make icewine, the grapes are left on the vine until after the first frost hits. The icewine harvest, done entirely by hand, commences once the temperature drops below -10 to -13 degrees C. The frozen grapes are then harvested on the vine, and then pressed from their frozen state. All juice intended for icewine must be pressed within 7 days of harvest. This produces a highly concentrated juice, very high in acids, sugars and aromatics. Because of the lower yield of grapes and the difficulty of processing, icewines are more expensive than table wines.
The high sugar levels in the frozen grapes lead to a slower than normal fermentation. It may take months to complete the fermentation (compared to days or weeks for regular wines) and special strains of yeasts should be used. Icewines are often sold in half-bottle volume (375 ml), and occasionally 200 ml and 50 ml gift packages.