Ice Wines 2: How Ice Wine Is Made

Welcome to the second post in our three-part blog series on ice wine. Now that we know where ice wine comes from, we should figure out how, exactly, ice wine is made. It is certainly more complicated than simply forgetting grapes out in the wintertime; it requires careful preparation under specific conditions. Let’s take a look at them.

First, the grapes must be picked from the vine when they are naturally frozen, and then taken to the press in a continuous process wherein the air remains (at least) a consistent-8 degrees  Celsius, or -17.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Any rise in warmth can potentially endanger the entire process. In order to keep the grapes completely undamaged while in this precarious frozen state most vineyards will hand-pick the grapes. Once back to the winery the grapes are softly pressed to separate the water from the crystallized sugars. Once the concentrated juices are extracted from the grapes then they go through the fermentation process which can take anywhere from a few months to as much as a year.

What kinds of Grapes Are Used in Ice Wines?

Great question! The answer is mostly Riesling; the rest of the varietals normally used include: Vidal, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Franc.

What Kinds of Flavor Can We Expect?

Again, great question! A good ice wine will be balanced in sweetness and acidity, and will contain some tropical fruit with some crispness. On occasion you will run into ice wines made from red grapes and they typically have the flavors of strawberry, candied red fruit, and some sweet spice.

What kind of Price Can We Expect?

Unfortunately, ice wines are expensive. You can expect to spend anywhere between $35 to upwards of $100 for a 375ml bottle The reason for this is mostly because the grapes are, as was previously said, hand-picked; another reason is that one grape will only yield about one-fifth what a full grape would produce for a table wine. In other words, one vine will make one glass of ice wine, instead of one full bottle.

It is a little pricey, but ice wine can be a refreshing change from traditional wines. I encourage you to try some Canadian ice wine, and my suggestion would be a Riesling. The best representation of what ice wine can achieve will be from BC or Ontario. When making your selection be sure to look for the QVA: the Vintners’ Quality Alliance designation—this guarantees that the wine is made from 100% Canadian grapes; furthermore, that the grape stated on the bottle should have certain expected flavor characteristics.

In the next blog post, Part 3: Food Pairings for Ice Wine, the last in this series, we’ll show you what the best food pairings are for ice wine so as to get the most out of your new chilled purchase. Stay tuned.


About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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