Ice wine is a type of a dessert wine. This is referred to as a ‘dessert’ wine because it is sweeter than the conventional wine and has a strong aroma. The extra sweetness it gets is because of the high concentration resulting from freezing [20 ºF (-7º C)] the tropical fruit (grapes or the seasonal fruit) before fermentation hence resulting the water element to freeze but allowing concentrated grape to flow. The process requires precision and very delicate conditions. Some of the world’s best ice wine is produced in Ontario.
It is believed that in Franken, Germany, during a particularly cold winter in 1794, winemakers were forced to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The result made them discover something new which was strong and highly aromatic. Since then it became famous and started being made all over the world. By the mid-1800s, the Rheingau region was making what the Germans called eiswein.
The best yield is by the grapes that grow in extremely cold environments like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, and Vidal Blanc out of which cabernet franc is rare.
The price however is approximately 4 to 5 times higher than the conventional wine because of the low yield of wine by the frozen grapes, thus it is often sold in smaller bottles and quite a few strains are area specific only.
A little guide to the ice wine is as following along with short reviews of each; (descriptions as per those on www.vinepair.com)
WEINGUT MARKUS HUBER 2012 BERG RIESLING EISWEIN
‘Eiswein doesn’t take up much turf on the Austrian winemaking landscape, but what it produces can be ridiculously good, like this bustingly-ripe pick from Markus Huber. Nectar-level honey but still fresh tasting, with fruit to spare. A splurge, but also capable of aging for at least a couple of years.’
PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURE SERIES 2010 CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE – BEST SPLURGE
‘This one’s definitely a splurge, but if you consider that each grape (supposedly) yields but one drop of sugary-sweet juice, you might get why. Made with Cabernet Franc, with an interplay of complex red fruits and even some supple tannins (10% of the wine is aged in French oak). Round red flavors, at once bright and brambly.’
2007 HUNT COUNTY VINEYARDS VIDAL BLANC ICE WINE
‘With higher levels of acidity and sugar, ice wine is typically a good candidate for aging. Over time, brighter notes tend to recede and let a slightly richer, deeper character come out, as with this bottle from 2007—darker than a young ice wine, with notes of raisin intermingling with the more traditional apricot and lighter, honeyed fruits.’
CASA LARGA 2008 CABERNET FRANC ICE WINE
Another slightly aged ice wine, this one made from Cab Franc, with intermingling sweet and dry red fruit flavors (think cherry, strawberry, cranberry, pomegranate). There’s less forward sweetness, tamed a bit by age, allowing the fruit to softly play a lead role.
2012 NIGL GRÜNER VELTLINER EISWEIN – BEST BUDGET BUY
‘This bottle’s an easy “yes.” Priced close to $35, and you’ll still get the sleek, fresh liveliness of an Austrian eiswein with developed complexity of fruit—here, stone fruit, dried apricot, and some light raisin notes, all balanced by acidity and a Grüner pepperiness.’