Rather than curse the first frosts and the arrival of the cold, we invite you to consider the cold as a benefit! Indeed, without winter no frosts, no frosts, no ice wine! Also known as "Icewine" in Canada or "Einswein" in Germany, ice wine is a surprising product based on an equally surprising story! It is therefore during this holiday season that the grapes invite you to discover this original and tasty wine... enough to make your mouth water for New Year's Eve evenings!
Ice wine is, as its name suggests, related to winter frosts. At the end of the 18th century, a cold snap, causing early frosts, surprised the Austrian and German winegrowers: their ripe grapes were icy. They had to press these red or white grapes, and the result was ice wine. It is therefore an unexpected discovery, ice wine was born by chance, thanks to the surprises of the seasons.
Temperatures guide the harvest for ice wine. The temperature must be between -6°C and -12°C for the grapes to be picked, since the sweet juice of the grapes only freezes at -7°C. In Canada, the harvest is done from -10°C. The maximum temperature is -12°C or the grapes are too frozen! This is a late harvest, which means that the grapes are very ripe. This wine is therefore produced mainly in very fresh, frosty vineyards, such as in Germany and Canada, but also in Austria and Alsace. The most famous grape varieties are mainly white: they are Riesling, Gewurztraminer; but there are also red varieties such as Merlot.
This wine is therefore made with ripe, picked frozen grapes. They are also pressed and further frozen, and then fermented. It is the natural concentration of the grapes in sugar that makes this wine so original: given the high sugar content of these grapes, the wine is sweet. To this very sweet taste is added acidity: indeed the juice is already sweet since the grapes are very ripe when they are picked. Then the sugar concentration increases when the grapes thaw, which means that the acidity increases at the same time. This wine is traditionally served in a tasting glass at a temperature of 6°C. It can be served as an aperitif, with dessert, but also and especially with cheese.
As harvests are late, grape losses are higher for ice wine. The over-maturity of the grapes leads to more losses, which makes them more valuable. In addition, the cost of harvesting the grapes increases considerably given the very cold climate in which grapes for ice wine are harvested. It is therefore understandable why few vineyards try the ice wine experience! It is a rather rare and valuable product. White ice wine is considered one of the greatest white wines in the world, and its price reflects its value. Indeed, ice wine remains inaccessible due to its price. This surprising and tasty wine can be added to your Christmas wish list or even become a Christmas gift!
Marie Lecrosnier-Wittkowsky (for Les Grappes)