Ice wine might be one of the sweetest mistakes nature has ever made. It is difficult to think how anyone would purposely go out to make ice wine because although it might look like it, ice wine is one of the hardest, tedious wines to produce. Just imagine being outside in sub-zero temperatures, in the dark, trying to harvest frozen grapes.
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Ice wine is one of the wine treasures of the world, despite some claiming to hate it. It may have almost double the sweetness of your average soda, but once you taste a really decent ice wine, it’ll be hard not to love.
The History Of Ice Wine
The history of ice wine is that during a cold winter in Franken, Germany, in 1794, winemakers were forced to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The result of this was wines that had a particularly high sugar content, along with amazing flavor. This technique then became popularized in Germany.
How Ice Wine Is Made
The secret to creating ice wine is by processing frozen grapes at around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen grapes are then transferred into a grape crusher and then into a grape press. Only around 10-20% of the liquid is used for the ice wine and it can take anywhere between 3-6 months for the fermentation process because the juice is so sweet. Once complete, the wines have around 10% ABV and a sweetness range of 160-220 g/L of RS.
The Grapes That Are Used To Produce Ice Wine
The best grapes for ice wine are the ones that grow well in cold climates. These grapes include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, and Vidal Blanc. Cabernet Franc Ice Wines, while delicious, can be incredibly rare, unless you’re in Ontario, Canada, where it can be found relatively easily.
Real Ice Wine
Real ice wine requires a cold climate where the grapes are harvested frozen from the vine. Some wines may be labeled as ‘ice wine’ but the grapes are actually just commercially frozen. Fortunately, in the U.S., Germany, Canada, and Austria, dessert wines are not allowed to be labeled as ice wines if the grapes are commercially frozen. Also, a lot of products may be labeled as “iced wine” or ‘”dessert wine”, so be wary of what you’re picking up and be sure to read labels or look up the product to ensure a true ice wine.
Food Pairings With Iced Wine
Although ice wine is a dessert wine, you might want to pair it with somewhat subtle desserts that contain enough fat to balance the explosive fruity flavors and high sweetness. A few desserts that pair well with the ice wine are vanilla pound cakes, ice cream, cheesecake, and white chocolate mousse. Another great pairing for the more savory lover would be soft cheeses.
Ice Wine Typically Costs Over $30
The price of ice wine is so high primarily because of the cost of production. They are also sold in half bottles because it takes 4-5 times as many grapes to produce the wine. With this, the market for these wines is so small, that you can expect to find ice wines from the US around the $30 mark. If you see any for a lot cheaper, they are likely to be poor quality and/or commercially frozen.
Aging Of Ice Wine
A lot of people believe ice wines can only age around 10 years, but special varieties have proven to age much longer than that. This is all because of the wine’s acidity level and lack of volatile acidity. Wines with higher sugar content and high acidity are likely to age for 30-50 years. It is also inevitable that their taste profile over time will change and the wines will become darker in color and sweeter tasting.