28 Jan Ice Wine – What Exactly Is It?
Icewine also called Eiswein is a cold climate sweet wine that was originally produced in Austria and Germany. More recently, China and Canada are also producing it. As its name suggests, the wine can be produced only in cold climates and is made with grapes frozen while still on their vines. Unlike water, the sugars in the grapes do not freeze.
So, while the fruit are frozen, it still becomes possible to concentrate their flavours at the point of harvest. Fortunately, noble rot does not affect these wines and their high acidity levels are well balanced with a distinctive refreshing sweetness.
The Ice wine Production Process
The grape while frozen is pressed through a special machine which results in smaller amounts of concentrated, sweet wine. This process from harvesting to pressing can take approximately size hours and needs to be done only under the right weather conditions, making it a risky process. Sometimes, the grapes don’t freeze at all which means no ice wine can be produced in that particular year.
The stems and seeds are removed from the juice before fermentation. Sometimes, it takes several months of fermentation because the fruit has high sugar levels. These wines can be aged for several years. Some ice wine producers use an artificial method (cryoextraction) to freeze their grapes. However, this process is permitted only in countries without any production regulations in place and ones that don’t typically produce ice wine.
Theoretically, any variety of grape can be used to make icewine. German winemakers are partial to Riesling while Cabernet Franc and Vidal are popular varieties in Ontario, Canada. Some producers also experiment with grapes like Merlot and Chenin Blanc. Ones made from white grapes are generally light gold or pale yellow when they are young and tend to deepen with age. When red grapes are used in making icewine the resultant liquid is light pink.
Why Is Icewine So Pricey?
There are several reasons for the high cost of this wine, such as:
- Government regulation, the labour-intensive process and risk involved make it tough to find inexpensive icewine.
- Sometimes, the weather plays truant and there may be no frost before the grapes ripen and rot which means that harvest is lost. In fact, global warming has affected the production of icewine.
- Today, most German producers make far less icewine compared to what they used to in the 80’s and 90’s.
- Its production is restricted to countries where there is a consistent dip in temperatures below freezing during the winter months.
- Freezing the grapes results in a naturally lower harvest yield, meaning there is overall, less wine, making it rarer and so more valuable too.
- In Canada, the US, Germany and Austria, the grapes must be frozen naturally, ruling out cost-effective artificial processes.
Where is Icewine Produced?
Germany and Canada are the largest icewine producers in the world and approximately Canadian wine comes from Ontario. However, icewine is also widely produced in European countries where the climate is cold at specific times of the year, such as Austria, Croatia, Georgia, France, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Lithuania Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain.
Japanese Icewine is considered a premium product and the Furano Winery makes red icewine every winter. Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the US have ice wine producers and many wineries in China now make them too.
Fruity desserts pair very well with Riesling-based ice wines. These are fermented slowly and aren’t affected by noble rot, so they retain many of the primary characteristics that distinguish them from standard wines. Icewines can be very aromatic and have ripe tropical fruit flavours. They are also a perfect match for Parmesan, Roquefort and Gorgonzola and other strong cheeses.
The milder cheeses can’t stand up to the robust, luscious flavours and aromas of classic Icewines. Salted nuts, tapenade and similar salty hors d’oeuvres balance out the wine’s high sugar levels, while enhancing its fruity acidity. Richer foods such as pâtés also pair well with these wines. Thai and Indian dishes that are typically spicy are a great match with icewines as well.
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