Ice wine is making its mark on the UK on-trade market for the first time.
Rebel Pi founder Jackie Fast beat other start-up brands in a launch roulette at The Morning Advertiser’s (MA) inaugural Drink Tank event earlier this year, where audience members voted for the best pitch. The winning brand got the chance to be profiled by MA.
Canadian-born Fast found fame on BBC’s The Apprentice and had several years of business success under her belt by the time she founded Rebel Pi in 2018.
Ice wine is produced in incredibly specific conditions, which is why it is sold at high prices and is predominantly stocked in premium venues in the UK.
It is made from white wine grapes that are left on the vine for months past the usual harvest time until the temperature reaches a certain point below freezing.
The grapes must be picked at the perfect time, if it does not get cold enough in time, the fruit might rot but if the cold is too harsh, it is impossible to extract the juice.
Fast explains: “What makes it so special is that all the grapes stay on the vine past harvest until it gets to -8°C. If it gets to -8°C too late in the season, you lose the crop because all the deer and the birds eat it.
“And if it freezes too quickly and you haven’t planned for it, you don’t have enough people to handpick it at that temperature because the weather obviously fluctuates.
“Typically, it’s picked at 4am by hand. So you need 30 people on call, ready to pick grapes all night – so it’s certainly an ordeal to make it and produce it.
“It has always been a really high-end, luxury drink,” Fast adds. It is served like a desert wine but can also be used in Champagne or Prosecco cocktails.
The wine is best served chilled and pairs well with salty foods like salmon and the company recommends any meal paired with it has a unique salt property to it.
The key [selling] point really is the specific production method of ice wine, Fast continues.
“It’s not a new way of production it originated in Germany 200 years ago but because of climate change, Canada produces around 90% of all ice wine. Most of it is for domestic sale because there is such a low yield – it doesn’t get exported .”
Rebel Pi’s Roussanne is produced through a partnership with Canadian winery Pentage, which is based in the Okanagan Valley in the province of British Columbia.
There are two archetypal drinkers of the product, Fast explains. The first group are the “real wine enthusiasts”.
“They love their wine and this is the first time outside of Canada that they can try ice wine,” Fast says.
The second set of target drinkers are adventurous people, who are eager to try new products and have a diverse palate.
She explains: “[It is for] somebody who wants to try new things and experiences, and they are interested in having the best.”
Rebel Pi took a silver medal at this year’s London Wine Competition and was the only ice wine brand recognised by the competition.