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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hoyos

Ice Eis Baby

Inside there might be vanilla... proudly presents it’s first ever Cider Vs. Wine Challenge! The rules are pretty simple:

  • Taste and judge their quality

  • Note flavor profile, balance, possibly food pairing suitability

  • Discuss price

  • Declare a winner

The goal is not to shame wine or cider, but simply to highlight the differences and similarities. in some cases, the goal could include discussing why the particular ciders or wines are better suited for drinking alone or paired with something.

Far be it for me to make the first challenge a simple one.

In the CIDER corner:

In the WINE corner:

Neither Ice Cider nor Ice Wine are really popular. But they do have their cult followings for good reason. These are unique, quality products that provide post-dinner digestif or dessert pairing options. Part of the reason I selected these two beverages for this challenge is that they’re both made of fruit from geographically similar regions. (Eden in based in the Northeast Kingdom in VT. Inniskillin is from the Niagara Peninsula just over the Canadian border.)

Both products presented with excellent quality. With the benefit of barrel time, the Eden had a darker amber color, while the non-barrel-aged Inniskillin presented a yellow-gold hue in the glass.

Inniskillin tasting notes Notes of tropical fruit, white wine, alcohol, white grape and pepper all appeared in the aroma. Some of that carried through to the palate where sweet mango, sugar, grape skin and a bit of pepper were present. The finish was not surprisingly cloying with the sweet fruit leading into molasses. The overall impression was that of a delicate, well-structured beverage.

Eden tasting notes

The nose of the Eden had an obvious apple and brandy (caramel, vanilla, wood) component to it, but also showed some earthy, apple skin notes with it. The palate was consistent with the aroma, though the apple/apple skin/caramel flavors were the most dominant. I tasted some tannic structure, some acidity and a bit of pepper. The finish had a balance of acidity and sweetness, again offering caramel, apple skin and pepper. The overall impression was a sturdy, hearty beverage.

Pairing thoughts

The Inniskillin would make a great pairing with a fruit cocktail or a similar lighter mixed fruit dessert. The Eden begs for apple pie or Apple Brown Betty with a dollop of ice cream on the side or, if you want to get really crazy, flan. The Eden has enough structure to stand up to a dessert with some spicy heat to it as well.


The Inniskillin is priced near the entry level of most ice wines at roughly $50. The Eden is nearly half the price at $27. Both prices are based off purchasing from the producer’s website.

The Winner

Even if they’re equally priced (which they probably should be at least), it’s easy to declare the Eden Specialty Ciders 2013 Brandy Barrel-Aged Heirloom Blend Ice Cider the winner. The brandy barrel-aging does make it a bit of an unfair fight, but selection at retailers where I purchased the Inniskillin were not robust with ice wine. It was difficult to come up with a comparable product and stay within a decent price range.

The next time you’re in the mood for a dessert wine, consider sampling an ice cider. While many ice wines are priced $50+, most ice ciders stay in the $30-40 range. Also, since the process to make ice cider is different from ice wine (pressed juice is left outside to freeze, not left on the tree to freeze), there are a few more US producers involved.

Hope you enjoyed this Cider Vs. Wine Challenge. There is plenty to come in future challenges including single-varietal showdowns, blend vs. blend, French vs. French, rosé vs. rosé, guests bloggers and much more. Stay tuned!

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