A MIRACLE OF NATURE
A miracle of nature because its intense sweetness comes from grapes grown plump under the hot Armenian sun and then frozen in the snows of Armenian winter.
This is one of the world’s rarest and most luxurious wines—rare because only a handful of vineyards provide the climate extremes required for icewine; luxurious because the yield is so small and so precious that every drop is pure gold.
ARMENIA: ANCIENT WINEMAKING CULTURE
Legend says the original Vitis vinifera, the first grape vine, was planted by Noah on Mount Ararat, and this frieze on a 10th century Aghtamar church shows the long history of Armenian wine. And it is not a legend, it is a fact, that archaeologists unearthed the world’s oldest known winery, dated from 4000 B.C., in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province, in a cave close to the Armeau vineyards.
THE PERFECT VINEYARD
In recent years, Canada has developed an international reputation for fine icewine. But Armenia provides even more favorable conditions for the nurturing of icewine grapes—hotter summers (up to 40 degrees Celsius) and colder winters (down to -46 degrees).
Armeau oenologists searched throughout Armenia to find the perfect location, analyzing weather charts of the last twenty years. They chose a vineyard 1500 metres above sea level in the ancient winemaking province of Vayots Dzor.
IDEAL FOR ICEWINE
The nectar that becomes Armeau Icewine comes from Voskehat and Areni, grapes unique to Armenia. Golden Voskehat, from vineyards in the fragrant foothills of Vayots Dzor, gives Armeau white the honey-sweet flavor of pear and hazelnut. Lush and elegant Areni, grown from centuries-old vines brings plum and cherry ripeness, with a tantalizing hint of spice, to Armeau red.
CANADIAN EXPERTISE, ARMENIAN PASSION
Directing the production of Armeau Icewines in collaboration with Armenia’s leading vintners is Tilman Hainle, a pioneering winemaker for more than three decades, whose wines have received numerous gold medals in international judging. Working with his father, Hainle developed North America’s first icewine, called by wine critic Jurgen Gothe “a hallmark against which the rest of the world’s icewines must take their measure.”
THE CHALLENGE AND THE TRIUMPH
The challenge to vintners of icewine is great. Cultivation is highly labor intensive. The vagaries of weather are a constant risk to grape development; so is the threat of predators. These are vines that require constant security. Then, after dedicated nurturing has brought the grapes to the precise, perfect moment, harvesting by hand must be completed in a few hours. The 2011 icewine harvest took place January 28, with the temperature at -10 Celsius.
Pressing has to be done while the grapes are still frozen. And the yield, while precious, is small. A vine that would produce grapes for a bottle of wine yields only enough for a glass of icewine.
But out of this come wines full of luscious fruit flavor and refreshing sweetness, enlivened by high acidity—the blissful marriage of summer sun and winter snow. Truly, a miracle of nature—and the winemaker’s art.
Icewine is best presented in small portions — a two-ounce serving is suggested — in larger white wine stemware. This brings forth its bouquet. It should be chilled, but not overly cold, 10 to 12 degrees Celsius is recommended, allowing the wine’s fruit to become more expressive.
Although icewine may be enjoyed at any time, it is traditionally served at the conclusion of meals. It is the perfect ending, with any dessert or by itself. It is, a one writer put it, “a dessert in a glass.”
Armeau Icewines are produced and distributed by ArmeauBrands, Inc., a Canadian company who's mission is to unlock the ancient mysteries of Armenian grapes and to introduce the wines and spirits of Armenia to the world. Armeau Icewines are the first to be presented to the international market.