We’re all familiar with the white, red and rose varieties, but have you ever heard of ice wine? This unique take on classic vino is a delightful tipple with citrus and tropical fruit flavours alongside notes of honey and marmalade. The wine is growing in popularity after the Wayne Getzky Estates, no.99 Vidal Icewine received a platinum medal in the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards. However, given that this type of beverage remains largely unknown by even the most knowledgeable of wine enthusiasts, we thought we’d provide more of an insight into what it is, where it came from, how it’s made and other interesting facts about ice wine so you can impress guests with your extensive expertise at your next dinner party.
The History of Ice Wine
Ice wine was originally made in Germany and Austria, although in more recent years it has also become available in Canada and China. There are some reports of ice wine being back in the Roman times, but techniques were never formalised, meaning it’s widely thought to have originated in Franken, Germany, during a particularly cold winter in 1794. Like many of the world’s greatest inventions, it was created as a result of circumstances, by accident, as opposed to actually invented, so it is difficult to attribute it to one particular winemaker. Vineyard owners had to use the produce they had available, which was frozen, resulting in flavourful wines with a remarkably high sugar content. This led to other Germans adopting the idea of using frozen grapes and by the mid-1800s, Eiswein was a popular drink, common in the Rheingau region.
How to Make Ice Wine
Ice wine is made by processing frozen grapes at around seven degrees. These grapes are taken to a winery before thousands upon thousands of the icy marble-like fruits are transferred into a grape crusher and then presser. Pressing the concentrated grape sugar syrup out of the frozen grapes is difficult to say the least, and many vintage presses have buckled under the pressure. Then a long fermentation process follows which can take anywhere between three and six months, because of the sweet nature of the juice. Interestingly, just 10-20% of the liquid extracted from the grapes is used for ice wine. The end product has an ABV of around 10% to make for a delightfully sweet tipple that those with a sweet tooth are sure to enjoy.
Real Ice Wine
An authentic ice wine requires production in a cold climate where the grapes that are harvested have been frozen whilst on the vine – any wines that have been manufactured using commercially frozen grapes is not allowed to market itself as ice wine. Instead, look out for labels such as iced wine or dessert wine.
The Age of Ice Wine
Much like traditional wines, ice wine can age, although most people believe it is restricted to about ten years. That said, there are some varieties such as Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that can age for far longer than that. How effective ageing can be depends on the wine’s level of acidity and how much volatile acid it has built up during fermentation – too much of which can cause wines to age too quickly. Generally speaking, ice wines with a notably high content of sugar and acidity will age for anytime between 30 – 50 years. These wines will usually experience a gradual change in taste, becoming sweeter, darker in colour and will develop and emphasise flavours of hazelnut and maple. You can learn more about how wines age with our recent blog post, Which Wine Will Improve with Age?
The Ice Price
The cost of producing ice wine is significantly higher than other varieties, hence why it is sold in half bottles at a higher price than you might expect for the volume. Typically, it will take four or five times as many grapes to create this sweeter than sweet wine, meaning vineyards simply can’t supply buyers to the likes of which they do with traditional wines. Ice wines are usually sold in 375ml bottles and will usually cost around £25 in the US and Austria. If a bottle seems particularly low in price, there’s probably a good reason for it and it is likely to be commercially frozen or altered in some way.
Much like you might pair white wine with fish or red wine with cheese, the sweet and syrupy nature of ice wine lends itself to being drunk at the end of a meal. To put this into some context for those that haven’t tried it yet, ice wine is thought to have almost double the sweetness of popular sugary drink Coca Cola. Some opt for pairing such a wine with desserts or soft cheeses, both of which help to compliment the sweet flavour. We recommend fresh, tangy desserts such as coconut ice cream, fresh fruit panna cotta, cheesecake, white chocolate mousse and any other kinds of ice cream and sorbet.
That concludes our complete guide to ice wine. We hope it has helped you to understand a little more about the sweet wine, how it’s made and where it comes from as well as the kinds of foods you may want to pair it with. Have you ever tried ice wine? Let us know your thoughts on the winter tipple via the comments on our social media and you can share your comments with other wine-drinking enthusiasts. If you’d like to add ice wine to your growing collection, be it at home or at your bar or restaurant, we offer custom wine racks to put all your finest bottles on display. If this is something you or someone you know might be interested in, contact us today to discuss your wants, needs and requirements for your ideal storage solution.
Image credit: Dominic Rivard