Timing is everything
After an early freeze more than 200 years ago, what might have been a disaster resulted in a delicious natural wonder. Luckily for sweet wine lovers, the outcome was ice wine (also known as Eiswein).
A winemaker in Germany pressed the frozen grapes and produced delicious, pure sweet juice. Eiswein is from Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland; ice wine is from Canada (British Columbia and Niagara Peninsula), the Finger Lakes in New York, northern New England, and the Northwest region of the United States, where the climate is cool.
Timing is everything in the production of true ice wine. The fruit stays on the vine until temperatures fall well below 20°F (usually in December and January). The grapes must be picked by hand in the dark so that cold air can keep them frozen. Then the ice crystals are carefully pressed to yield a concentrated juice with a delicate flavor. Often an entire vine yields only a small amount of liquid (about 5 to 10 percent of the grape juice), and thus the price tends to be expensive. This is why most ice wines are sold in half bottles (375 ml).
|Canada is the largest producer of ice wine—Canada's gift to wine lovers—and has very strict laws. Ice wines must follow Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) regulations that prohibit artificial freezing of the grape. In the United States (and perhaps other countries) some producers have found a way to make what they refer to as an ice wine without all the harvesting hassles. All they do is put grapes into a freezer. It can be difficult to distinguish ice wine made of grapes harvested on frozen vines from those frozen in a freezer. When tasted side by side, however, the wines from frozen vineyards stand out for taste, as well as pricing.
Most ice wines are made from Riesling or Vidal Blanc grapes, but you can find many other varietals such as Pinot Gris, Muscat, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc. You can also find "sparkling" ice wines made from these varietals.
Ice wines are well balanced with floral notes, fresh tropical citrus flavors, and other fruit flavors ranging from mango to peach to lychee nuts. They are well respected, always appreciated, and a perfect completion to your menu. Enjoy a small amount chilled in a wine or cordial glass. Cheers!
Ice wines are hard to find but worth the search. Visit your favorite local wine retailer, or purchase from the winery directly.
2007 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Eiswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
2007 Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine, Okanagan Valley, Canada
2006 Peller Estates, Riesling Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada
2007 Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula, Canada
2006 Pillitteri Estates Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
2005 Casa Larga, Vidal Fiori Delle Steele Ice Wine,Fing er Lakes, New York
2007 Lamoreaux Landing Vidal Ice Wine, Finger Lakes, New York
2008 Newport Vineyards Vidal Ice Wine, Rhode Island
2007 King Estate Vin Glacé Pinot Gris, Oregon