Winter’s Gift to Wine Lovers

Winter’s Gift to Wine Lovers…Here’s a riddle:  What is hot and cold and new and old?  The answer is:  Ice Wine!  It’s hot because it is newly popular, and it’s cold because it requires freezing temperatures to produce.  Ice Wine is a new product for many North American Wineries, yet it has been made in Germany since 1794!

 Ice Wine, known as “Eiswein” in the old country, is an enchanting desert wine first made in Germany and Austria.  In the new world, while many regions are attempting to make Ice Wine, it seems that the best and most consistent are coming from New York State, Washington State, and Canada. 

 Ice wine is a very sweet dessert wine – the versions I have tried lately have a residual sugar content of anywhere from 18% to 24%.  When you think that vanilla ice cream, if melted, would have a sugar content of about 10%, you can see that these wines are sweet indeed – most likely among the sweetest wines you will ever taste.

The “secret” to a true Ice Wine is that the wine is made from grapes that are frozen solid when harvested.  The grapes for Ice Wine are allowed to remain in the vineyard well into the winter season, and if they freeze on the vine, they are harvested while frozen – often in the dead of night, and always literally in the “freezing cold.”  The frozen grapes are then rushed to the winery and pressed while still frozen.

Pressing the grapes while they are still in the frozen state causes much of the water in the grape to be driven out as shards of ice, which are then discarded.  This leaves a highly concentrated grape juice, very high in acids, sugars, and aromatics.  This grape nectar is then fermented rather slowly for several months.  At anywhere from about 13% to 24% residual sugar, the finished Ice Wine is intensely sweet and flavorful.  As with all sweet wines, the true measure of a quality Ice Wine is its balancing acidity, which gives the sweet wine a clean, crisp finish. 

Ice Wine shows best when it is served chilled and with dessert! While many people may balk at the idea of serving a sweet wine with a sweet dessert, it’s an ideal pairing.  Believe it or not, the sweetness in the food diminishes the perception of the sweetness of the wine.  Ice Wine made from white grapes such as Riesling, Semillon, or Vidal pairs very well with poached pears, nut tarts, apricot or peach desserts, custard desserts, vanilla ice cream, or shortbread.  Give it a try!


About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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