What is Ice Wine?
Have you heard of ice wine? Not all wineries can produce this niche variety, and the bottles can be pretty pricey (the most expensive bottle from Royal DeMaria Ice Winery is $250,000, though most are priced between $30-$60 for a split-sized bottle).
What makes Ice Wine expensive?
Several factors make Ice Wine very difficult to produce. The first is the waiting, since grapes have to be frozen on the vine before harvest, ripe fruit can be hanging around for months waiting for a freeze. And if that freeze is late or never comes, the crop is lost. Then once the waiting is done, and the perfect temperature has been reached, workers only have a limited amount of time to harvest all of the grapes before the temperature rises and the grapes begin to thaw; Often working for hours in the middle of the night trying to beat the sunrise. The wine-making is difficult for the grape presses too since the juices are extracted while the grapes are still frozen and some heritage presses break under the pressure.
Beyond the physical challenges of producing Ice Wine, is the limited amount of wine one can produce from the process. Since the majority of the water in the fruit is frozen, a very small concentrated amount of liquid is extracted from each berry.
So if you wanted to avoid all this hassle, and take the easy way out, could you say….harvest your grapes as usual, then commercially freeze them, and make Ice Wine? Not in Austria, Germany, the US, and Canada. Wines created from grapes frozen after harvest cannot be labeled as Ice Wine, and will either be called “Iced Wine” or simply dessert wine. So make sure to read the label if you’re looking for authentic Ice Wine!
What does Ice Wine Taste Like?
Ice Wine is a dessert wine, since most of the water in the fruit is frozen, the amount of sugar in each drop of liquid extracted is much higher than in traditionally harvested juice. Though sweet, Ice Wines are also fairly acidic, meaning the taste is considered refreshing rather than cloying. Any variety of wine grape can be used to make Ice Wine but Vidal Blanc, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc are the most common.
How to best drink Ice Wine?
Like the name implies, Ice Wine should be consumed ice cold, so thoroughly chill before serving.
Pair it with fruit-driven desserts like tarts and gelés, or rich and creamy desserts like cheesecakes and ice cream. The acidity of the Ice Wine can cut through heavy and rich dishes. For more savory options, eat pungent cheeses like stilton, blue cheese, and very aged cheddar. Wondering what main courses to consume with your Ice Wine? Try something spicy, the spicier the better! The chill temperature and sweetness of Ice Wine can balance out spicy dishes.
Can you age Ice Wine?
Ice Wine can be enjoyed immediately after purchase, but if you’re interested in experiencing the changes in flavor aging can invoke, Ice Wine can be aged for about 10 years. Once aged, the flavors become syrupy with hints of molasses, maple, and hazelnut.
Storing Ice Wine
Chill in a wine fridge or wine cooler before consumption to get the perfect temperature. If you’re saving your Ice Wine for a special occasion, store on it’s side in the appropriate wine rack. Since Ice Wines are produced in split-style bottles, they may not fit in traditional wine racks.
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