♫ ♪ The snow glows white on the vineyards tonight. Not a footstep to be seen… ♪ ♫
Isolated on the frozen slopes, her potential was unknown until one particularly harsh winter, the ice and snow helped her concentrate. Finally, she has come of age and is ready to transform. With a stunning voice that’s pure and clear, smooth as golden honey and with just a hint of sauciness, Ice wine is Queen Elsa of wine styles!
What is Ice Wine?
Ice wine (AKA Eiswein or Icewine) is a sweet wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are left to hang on the vines over winter and are harvested and pressed while still frozen. As only the water freezes, it can be removed by crushing to leave a much more concentrated, sweeter grape juice with which to make wine. This process was discovered in late 19th century Germany after farmers decided to leave grapes hanging on the vine for their animals to eat during a particularly harsh winter, then realised how lusciously sweet they had become.
Which grapes are used for Ice Wine?
More often than not, Ice wine will be white with Riesling being the most famously used white grape, especially in Germany. The Vidal grape is huge in Canada however and experiments are being done with both red and white grapes worldwide, such as Chardonnay, Seyval blanc and even Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon!
How it is different from other dessert wines?
Ice wine is different from Sauternes, Tokaji and Trockenbeerenauselese because the grapes should not be affected by ‘noble rot’ (botrytis cinerea). This is a rot that’s deliberately allowed in certain winemaking regions in order to shrivel grapes and concentrate the juice. What noble rot also does however, is impart a particular, marzipan-esque flavour to the wines. Ice wine grapes are made with pristine grapes without noble rot, so the resulting wine is a little fresher and purer in taste. For more information on noble rot, check out what Kitchn.com has to say about it here.
♪ ♫ The mould never bothered me anyway!* ♪ ♫
Ice wine must be made according to vigorous standards and very little is produced at a time, which is why it can be very expensive. It’s worth it though once you taste all those unctuous, tropical fruit-dipped-in-spiced-honey flavours. It really is liquid gold! Try it as an excellent foil to the saltiness of blue cheese or to match the sweetness of lemon meringue pie. I’m drooling now.
Ice Wine Tasting Tour
Ice wine 1: GERMANY (where it’s called ‘Eiswein’)
Germany, particularly the regions of Rheingau and Mosel set the benchmark for Eiswein that is pure, pristine and crystal clear (just like a snowflake) that gets more minerally as it ages. In German wine classifications, Eiswein is part of the ‘Prädikatswein’ quality category.
Ice wine 2: CANADA (where it’s written as ‘Icewine’)
Canada is the perfect country for making Icewine with its consistently warm summers which fully ripen the grapes and consistently freezing winters to do the Icewine thing. Ontario is THE production area, with the Niagara Peninsular and its sub appellations in the south being the most significant area. Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is another well known Icewine production area and both use a lot of the Vidal grape but they also love a bit of Riesling and flirt outrageously with the red grape, Cabernet franc!
Ice wine 3: AUSTRIA (where it’s also called ‘Eiswein’)
Austrian Eisweins are richer and fuller than the German versions, just like their non-dessert wines. This is because the grapes have had a chance to ripen more fully before they freeze. Austrian producers also tend to use more of a mix of their native grapes such as Gruner Veltiner and Traminer.
Ice wine 4+: US and other European countries
New York’s Finger Lake region is not to be be ignored and there are many wineries in northern Michigan that produce good ice wine. Many other European countries also produce versions, such as Croatia, Italy, even Luxembourg (where it’s known as ‘vin de glace’), but none are as famous and revered as German Eiswein.
Stuff the Port; try Queen Elsa with your Stilton this year.
WB x *This brilliant line suggest by Robert McIntosh from ThirstForWine