Sovereign Coronation Raisins by Reif Winery.

Reif WineryReif Winery

Wineries generally use their grapes for wine making, but the award-winning Reif Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario produces also raisins. The raisins come from a neighbour specializing in table grapes. Here is the story…

Raisins are frequent breakfast and baking ingredients for millions all over the world. In many Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) raisins mixed with nuts are eaten as snacks, and sometimes as meals while travelling.

Iranians are also fond of raisins and grow small elongated, thin-skinned grapes specially bred for drying.

Most of the raisins consumed today originate in California’s Central Valley, Turkey, Australia and in small quantities in other countries with warm growing seasons.

Canada grows grapes in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, but up to now has not produced raisins.

Reif Estates, located just outside of Niagara-on-the-Lake on the Niagara parkway, is the first to produce raisins using Sovereign Coronation seedless grapes.

Klaus Reif, the owner and head winemakers of the winery planned to produce an amarone-style, high-alcohol, high-extract wine by drying grapes before vinification.

To achieve his objective, he decided to use large specially designed ovens. A few years ago, he had seen several of these ovens in southwestern Ontario’s tobacco country, abandoned since cigarette manufacturers decided to use less expensive imported tobacco. Tobacco farmers were stuck with their drying ovens, and had to shelve them.

He applied for a grant, which was approved. An oven was purchased, dismantled and transported to the winery. While it awaited for reassembly one of Reif’s neighbours in business growing table grapes saw the oven asked what he was planning to do. After hearing about Reif’s plan, he suggested that his grapes may be suitable for drying. Thus was Niagara raisin was born.

I tasted Californian, Iranian and Sovereign Coronation raisins side by side.

First, Niagara raisins are dark blue in colour, thick skinned, chewy, and more flavourful with a perceptible acidity making them more appealing in taste.

California and Iranian raisins are too sweet, brown, and lack the pleasant taste of Niagara raisins.

They are available from the winery in elegant 100-gram packages.

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