Icewine is a sweet and acidic, late-harvest dessert wine made from the juice pressed from naturally frozen grapes. Mainly white grape varieties like Riesling and Vidal are used to produce icewine, but it is also produced from red grapes, like Dornfelder and Cabernet Franc.
In picture on left: Canadian icewine.
The accidental discovery and production of icewine are said to have originated in Franconia, Germany in the late 18th century. Besides Germany, icewine Eiswein in German is nowadays produced in many other countries, like Austria, Slovenia and Canada, where Niagara Peninsula is the
biggest producer of some of the finest icewines.
The grapes used in making icewine are left on the vine to ripen until the winter months and first frosts. Only after the temperature has lowered between -7 and -8 °C and remained there for several days, the grapes are ready to be harvested.
Totally depending on the weather conditions, this may not happen until January on the following year.
The wine growers have to monitor the temperature and be constantly at guard, waiting for the most favourable harvesting conditions with their team of pickers.
The picking is done by hand, usually at nighttime and completed before dawn.
Because of the unpredictable weather conditions, the producing of icewine is expensive and uncertain, making the wine very rare, which is reflected on its price.
The changing outside temperature, alternately freezing and thawing the grapes, dehydrating them and concentrating the sugar in them, also adds the icewine a special complexity that cannot be replicated by artificial means, like placing the grapes in freezer.
Wines made from artificially frozen grapes are mainly produced in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
After harvesting, the grapes are pressed while still icy and hard. The water in the grapes, frozen as ice crystals, remains behind in the press. Only a small amount of highly concentrated juice is expressed from the grapes.
The juice is slowly fermented and aged in barrels before bottling.
Icewine is rich and fruity with high sugar content. Its high acidity balances the sweetness and gives the wine a clean and fresh taste, with a hint of noble rot, caramel, honey, raisin, apple, apricot, peach, orange or chocolate, even petrol, or tropical fruit, like passion fruit or mango.
Icewine may be served on its own, chilled, in small amount. It may also be served with foie gras, cheeses or various less sweet desserts.