What Is Ice Wine (Eiswein)?
Ice wine is an ultra-rich, super sweet dessert wine made from the intense liquid of naturally frozen grapes.
The first Ice wine is believed to have been made in Germany in the late 1700s when freezing weather struck before the grape crop could be harvested. The winemaker was not to be deterred. He harvested and pressed the frozen grapes and fermented the juice to a sweet wine. The result, the first Eiswein. Germany and Austria continue to produce Eiswein but their moderate European winters do not always provide the cold weather needed to freeze the grapes.
German immigrants to Canada carried on the tradition of Eiswein in their new country, with Icewine being made in British Columbia and Ontario beginning in the 1970s. The warm summers to ripen the grapes and cold but not too cold winters, Ontario has almost ideal climate conditions for the reliable production of Icewine. Ontario is now a leading Icewine producer and has earned global acclaim for its Icewines.
The juice from the frozen grapes is extremely sweet. Since the sugars in the grape do not freeze, the result from pressing the grape is a small amount of concentrated juice. Ice wine has a refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity.
The making of ice wine can be labor intensive. Since frost and other natural risk factors can damage the harvest, production typically results in small amounts of wine. During Icewine season, wineries and grape growers keep a careful watch on the weather forecast looking for an optimum stretch of temperatures between -10 and -12 °C. Typically, a period of at least 6 hours is needed to harvest and press the grapes, and it is usually an overnight job. Most small and medium sized wineries harvest by hand, often with volunteers who are enthusiastic Icewine lovers and want to experience the harvest first hand. Mechanized harvesting has been developed very recently and is now an option for larger vineyards. Because the frozen grapes yield such small quantities of liquid, the overall production numbers of ice wines are considerably lower than that of table wines. As the supply and demand principles dictate, true ice wines will typically be pricier than your average table wine. In fact, it is not uncommon to pay $50-$100+ for a 375 ml bottle for the best Ice Wines from Canada.
Most ice wines are made in a medium to full-bodied style. The most common aromas tend towards the stone fruits, with apricot and peach being the top components of aromatic character in the ice wines made from white grape varietals. On the palate, a sweet, honey-like flavor shines through along with stone fruit and rich, exotic flavors of tropical mango, papaya and pineapple. Red wines tend towards strawberry and red fruits with sweet spicy aromas woven in.
If you are looking for a special desert wine, why not try a bottle of Ice Wine?