Results of the 2023 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals)

Icewine and Late Harvest

Category Overview by Judge Geoffrey Moss, MW

(Jump straight to the medal winners.)

It has been a tumultuous few years for Canadian Icewine. There have been challenging, late vintages. And then export sales dramatically dropped in 2020. To date, they have not recovered.

From a volume perspective, Icewine has never been the bulwark of the Canadian wine industry. That is more the case now than ever. In Ontario, where the vast majority of Icewine is produced, it accounted for less than 0.5 percent of the province’s total production last year. Producers are less inclined to take the risk of growing Icewine without a clear market. 


This change may be a relief for those tired of saying, “Canadian wine is more than Icewine.” But we risk losing the prominence of one of the world’s great wines — sweet or not. Production in Ontario has dropped 89 percent over the past five years, and is now only made by 10 wineries. It is a shame because this year’s gold medal Icewines — the Gold Vidal and Sparkling Vidal from Inniskillin — demonstrate that these are truly benchmark wines. The Gold Vidal is the 2023 Best Icewine of the Year.

In the past, wineries have relied heavily on export markets. Maybe producers need to look closer to home and convince locals to rethink Icewine. There is no getting around it: Icewine is sweet. Given current trends, that is an unfortunate strike against it. But I do not think relegating Icewine to cocktails is the answer, either. 

My suggestion is to try an aged Icewine. There is a school of thought that says Icewine does not age. I disagree — and have many in my own cellar. A youthful Icewine is hedonistic and immediately gratifying; the fruit is exuberant and bursts from the glass. But it gains complexity with time in bottle, complementing the fruit with a satisfying savouriness. Interestingly, it also begins to taste less sweet, too.  

Try the Gold Vidal in another five years and see what you think. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something less sweet, the gold medal late harvest wines from Peller (Vidal) and Three Sisters (Riesling) are fantastic alternatives that seriously overdeliver for the price. With declining sales, sweet wines have become very much a labour of love — and it shows in this year’s award winners.

Inniskillin 2019 Gold Vidal Icewine , Niagara Peninsula, Ontario – 2023 Best Icewine of the Year
Inniskillin 2021 Sparkling Vidal Icewine , Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Peller Estates Niagara 2021 Private Reserve Late Harvest Vidal, Ontario
Three Sisters Winery 2021 Cane Cut Riesling, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Frind Estate Winery 2021 2021 Viognier Dessert Wine, British Columbia
Inniskillin 2021 Riesling Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Inniskillin Niagara 2022 Cabernet Franc Icewine, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Kittling Ridge 2020 Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Niagara College Teaching Winery 2020 Dean’s List Savant, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
SpearHead 2020 Botrytis Affected Late Harvest Riesling, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Trius 2021 Showcase Late Harvest Vidal, Ontario
Vignoble Riviére du Chêne 2022 La Cuvée Glacée des Laurentides, Quebec
Vignoble Riviére du Chêne 2021 Monde Vin de Glace, Quebec
Whistler 2022 Late Harvest Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Clos du Soleil 2022 Saturn, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia
Inniskillin 2021 Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Magnotta 2020 Vidal Icewine Limited Edition, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario