7 Unique Facts to Know about Ice Wine
The world loves wine, with large amounts being consumed every year.
In 2016 the world’s wine production was around 267 million hectoliters —or 2.67 billion liters equivalent to about 3.5 billion bottles! — .
At the very top of the wine lovers list is the US, who makes up about 13% of the world’s consumers. Just below them are France at 11% and Italy at more than 8%.
Ice wine is a delicious drink that has become a favorite drink to wine lovers all over the world.
1- Where Does Ice Wine Come From?
The history of Ice Wine can be traced back to two accounts. The first account tells of the first ice wine – or Eiswein – being made in the late 1700s.
The second documented account – claims the first Eiswein was made in 1829/1830. A fact shared by both these accounts is that Eiswein came from Germany.
Germany continues to make Eiswein (including from the Mosel region, see frozen vineyard landscape below), as does Austria, but their winters are not always cold enough to freeze the grapes sufficient to make the best ice wine.
In the 1970s ice wine was produced in Ontario, Canada for the first time. Now Ontario has become the leading ice wine producer.
These aren’t the only countries with a history connected to the first Ice wines. Italy also had its own part to play. Some writings date back to the first century A.D that speak of grapes that were harvested after the first frost.
These writings by Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martialis and Pliny, the Elder prove that ice wine was made in Italy as well all those years ago.
2- How Is Ice Wine Produced and Why is Ice Wine Sweet?
Icewine is an exceptional wine made from grapes that are harvested late in fall or wineter, and that have been left to freeze on the vines (they are often botrytized, see image below for a sense of what they look like).
The art of making ice wine lies in the fact that the grapes must be harvested and processed while frozen.
The frozen grapes are taken to the winery where they are put into a grape press where concentrated syrup is pressed from these frozen marbles.
Some wineries replace this natural process of picking frozen grapes in the vineyard in winter, by artificially freezing grapes in freezers after harvest. This allows to produce Ice Wine at a lesser cost, while preserving the essence and purity of what makes ice wine.
Because the grapes are frozen, when they are pressed, only the sweetest juices which have a lower freezing temperature come out of the press. This process therefore allows to obtain some of the most flavorsome, concentrated and sweet juices in the world of wine. Fermentation of icewine is also rather slow — taking 3 to 6 months—, and is generally conducted at relatively low temperature to preserve the freshness of the grapes’ fruit character for ice wine.
3- Red Ice Wine Vs White Ice Wine
Icewine from red grapes will usually be pink or light burgundy. Red wines tend to be sweeter and have the tastes of dried figs, candy, and berries. Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes yield the some of the best red ice wines, which are also made from Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Malbec.
Ice wine made from white grapes will typically produce wine in pale yellow or light gold. These colors can darken to deep gold over time, however. White wine is said to be more full-bodied than red wine, with tastes of citrus and peach. Riesling grapes make top Eiswein in Germany, while Vidal is the most popular white grape for Canadian Icewine. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc are also used.
4- What is Vidal Ice Wine?
Vidal is a hybrid grape variety particularly adapted for being grown in very cool climates and popular in Canada and the northeastern United States. It is a crossing of Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc) and Seibel 4986 (Rayon d’Or).
Having a thick skin which acts as a protection, it is suitable for harvesting late in the season, including when the grapes are frozen for making icewine. Vidal is the most grown grape for Icewine in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula area, but it is also commonly found in the Finger Lakes AVA of New York State.
It’s solid natural acidity balances the sweetness of the ice wine style, while the grapes typical tropical flavors of lychee or mango add lusciousness to the aromatic profile.
Most Vidal Ice wines are unoaked, but some may be aged in oak barrels, adding nutty and toasty characters.
5- Serving and Pairing Ice Wine with Food
Before serving, ice wine should be chilled. It is after all a dessert wine and should be served with dessert.
Because ice wine has fruity flavors like lychee and pineapple, you can enjoy drinking it with white chocolate mousse, fruit pannacotta, ice cream (coconut ice cream works well) and cheesecake.
For a more savory-inclined palette, soft cheese goes very well with ice wine.
6- How much is a bottle of ice wine?
Because grapes are left out on the vines for a long time through fall and into winter, they contain very little juice. Add the fact that grapes are frozen when pressed, and you will understand that the quantity or yield of ice wine produced on any vineyard is very low, making ice wine expensive to make and expensive to buy.
That said, ice wine is generally sold in small bottle, quarter-bottle (187ml) or half-bottles (375ml) so you can find small-sized flasks starting around $20. The finest examples though, often aged in oak barrels, can easily command prices around $80-$100 for a half-bottle.
It does not matter whether you prefer the sweet notes of red wine or the fruitier taste of white wine. Wine lovers everywhere will agree that ice wine is a superb addition to any dessert table, perhaps even as the dessert itself!
Wine lovers enjoy sharing their passion across the world, and there are many places to read, advice, discuss the differences between wine grape varieties and learn the latest news about this sweet elixir. So if you are new and just learning to enjoy wine there are loads of information out there to help you find that perfect taste for yourself.
Lastly, if people spent more time enjoying ice wine and delicious desserts and less time contemplating violence, the world would be a better, merrier place.
This Guest Post was Written by Sara O Brown Exclusively for Social Vignerons.