Ice Wine: What is it?
Months after the Northern Hemisphere’s wine harvest, some vineyards — particularly in the US, Canada and Germany — are still full of fruit.
When perfectly healthy grapes are left on the vines as the year progresses and the temperatures drop, you’re in ice wine territory.
As the temperatures plummet below freezing, the water inside the body of the grape (the pulp) freezes too.
The grapes are picked and pressed just like a normal harvest, but once that’s happened, the ice from the pulp stays in the press and the juice that is pressed out is much sweeter as the sugars have been concentrated.
Temperatures fluctuate between the end of summer and the depths of winter so grape pulp freezes and thaws again, often many times, before the frozen harvest in December or January. This dehydrates the grape leading to further sugar concentration.
You’ve gathered by now that ice wine is sweet! It’s a dessert variety.
When sweet wine is made, the grapes need to be high in acid, which is the case with grapes grown in cooler climates. Chardonnay grapes from Chablis in the northern part of Burgundy for example are more acidic than those from the southern extremity of Macon.
This is the case with the classic ice wine (or Eiswein) grapes Vidal Blanc and Riesling.
Due to the extra work that goes into harvesting these grapes, the price point is often a little higher than your common garden white wine.
But if you’ve never tried it, it’s a real winter treat.