“Wine is sunlight held together by water” – Galileo gallilei
Over the course of human history, wine has received its fair share of lauds, praise, almost even worship. It’s arguably the most beloved beverage in the world. Although I realise that wine rises steeply above a mere “beverage” in the minds and hearts of many of us wine lovers…
“Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was every granted by the gods to man.” – Plato
Wine has been a part of civilized life for some several thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man. To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history. Wine is a living thing. It is made, not only of grapes, but of skill and patience. When drinking it, we must remember that to the making of that wine has gone, not only the labor and care of years, but the experience of centuries. Wine has a unique and mystical quality to it, and every bottle is a surprise and if it has been aged well ,it’s sublime. And thus wine is, for me, sacred love.
Recently I had the privilege to visit one of the world’s best winery , The Pillitteri estate winery, in Niagara on the lake, Ontario,which takes the pride of producing the best of icewines and the table wines worldwide, with its beautiful estates running and stretching over and extending its arms to the world offering the best, most exotic and loveliest wines anybody would have ever had.
We were taken around the breathtaking property, the vineyard and the bunches of enticingly, juicy grapes were all over on the vines which were clinging on and entwined.
The staff was so cheerfully explaining each and every step of the process involved from picking, harvesting to wine making, and I must say, the staff was so informative. I came to know that if the weather dips only for short periods, to save the grapes big fans called cannons are used. Cold air collects on the ground and it might freeze the grapes, so in order to avoid this, the fans blow warmer air from above down into the vineyards to keep frost from forming.
Interestingly we noticed there was a rose shrub planted at the onset of every row of grapevine, and we thought it must be surely for the beauty factor that it is such; no sooner were we informed that these rose shrubs are the most sensitive ones to any kind of infections and hence if there is any kind of breakout then it is these roses which show the first signs and hence the crop can be saved by monitoring or rather rejected completely too.
The Pillitteri family estates consist of 5 vineyards, the first of which was planted in 1965 by Gary Pillitteri, owner and proprietor of the winery.The most common grape varietals grown in the Niagara Peninsula are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir. These wines are fun, fresh and easy-drinking. Easy to pair with food, or perfect for drinking alone, the versatility, the quality, of these wines makes them perfect for any occasion. These wines are made from grapes from the home estate vineyards. Each vineyard and wine is treated individually since each has its own ‘personality’ that must be expressed. The Pillitteri estate produces consistent, quality wine: rich, full-bodied reds; fragrant and lively whites, all in a variety of styles to suit every palate. Popular blends include Gewurztraminer Riesling and Cabernet Merlot. These wines express the essence of the Pillitteri’s winemaking philosophy; “To produce the finest wines possible from the highest quality Niagara Peninsula grapes.” Single varietal red wines are only produced in years which meet their strict winemaking and minimum growing degree day standards.
Then we were guided to the cellar where the old world meets the new. The cellar was full of oak barrels. Romans used oak barrels since they were readily available, wine was safer to drink and more nourishing than the water during the times of war and this accidental discovery, which has become a norm now, was a pleasant one. The Oak barrels impart the new, pleasant quality to the wine.The contact with the wood made the wine softer and smoother, and with some wines, it also made it better tasting. Due to the minimal toasting of the wood, wines developed additional scents such as cloves, cinnamon, allspice or vanilla, and when drunk they had additional flavors present, such as caramel, vanilla or even butter and hence this pleasant accidental discovery has become a practice to age the wines.
In 2006, Pillitteri Estates Winery’s founders Gary and Lena Pillitteri commissioned the creation of the 23 stainless steel chairs which now hang on the walls of barrel cellar. The chairs symbolically tell the story of the past, present and future of the Pillitteri family, and add a “new world” element to the barrel cellar’s old world ambiance.
After the tour of the vineyards and the manufacturing unit, finally we were taken to the tasting room, where our journey started with table wines, made from the home grown varieties of grapes, and ended with the icewines, being the signature production of wines in Canada. My love for red wine made me go for the Reds, tannins while my partner tried some white wine. The tasting menu was laid on the table along with the food pairings.
Icewine is a sweet wine produced from grapes naturally frozen on the vine and pressed while frozen at -8oC. Ontario’s microclimate is uniquely suited to the annual production of Icewine as warm summers allow grapes to ripen while cold harsh winters allow natural freezing on the vine. Ontario produces 80% of the world`s Icewine and is the market lead in the category.
Icewine is a Pillitteri flagship product. Half of the wine produced at Pillitteri is Icewine. Typical aromas of Icewine include apricot, honey and citrus for whites and cherry, strawberry, and chocolate for reds. Icewine makes an excellent dessert wine and pairs with many savory foods like cheesecake. Pillitteri Estates Winery is the world’s largest estate Icewine producer.
Reserve Icewines are available in 13 varieties, more than any other winery in the world, including some exclusively available at Pillitteri. Reserve Icewines undergoes maturation in oak barrels. Like table wines, Icewine matures and gains complexity and aromas from oak. All Pillitteri reserve classified Icewine is placed in custom designed bottles embossed with 24kt. gold.
For an Icewine to reach reserve classification it must meet a minimum of 38 degrees Brix at harvest. In addition, reserve Icewine meets strict winegrowing and winemaking standards: residual sugar, acidity and alcohol must be balanced in perfect harmony. As told by the staff which was so informative and took us around the vineyard, it is just one drop that is used from every single grape that goes into making a reserve ice wine, thereby making it so exotic and expensive at the same time. The flurry of icewine harvesting begins when temperatures across the peninsula had finally sunk to below –8°C for at least a few hours. That’s the outdoor threshold needed before the frozen berries can be harvested, pressed and fermented into the sweet icewine delicacy.
This sheer love for making the most exclusive and exotic of stuff and the sheer grit and hard work that goes into the winemaking makes, wine tasting personally, even more wonderful and cherished an experience for me and with every sip I take in my mouth I realise the beauty of every drop of wine, the mercy of bountiful Mother Nature, the power of determination; and I realise that the romanticism which lies in the essence of gifting a wine to the loved ones can only be felt in a place like this when you know that we reap the harvest of love’s labour that should never be lost with time, the fruits of love and labour, the essence of romanticism, the poetry of love, the beautiful discovery of humankind, the Wine.
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