Molecular Gastronomy Kits - Click here to buy!
Our Services - Web, Video, Photo & More! Click here for more information.

A Gift from Jack Frost: Ice Wine

January 8, 2008 | By More

As the cold winter months arrive, so does one of the wine world’s best-kept secrets: ice wine. Truly Jack Frost’s gift to the wine lover, ice wines are dessert wines made from frozen grapes. The water inside these frosty berries has crystallized leaving a juice highly concentrated with sugars, acid and extracts. The result is wine with intensified flavors and complexity.

The making of ice wine is part of its allure. True ice wines require the grapes to freeze naturally on the vine (as opposed to mechanical freezing them after harvest). This requires a hard frost (below 15 F) to occur after ripening. Most ice wine grapes must hang on the vine for months and aren’t harvested until December or January.

The berries must still be frozen when pressed, so harvesting often occurs by hand and in the dead of night. Once picked, the grapes are pressed within hours in an unheated facility. The frozen water crystals are left behind and only the concentrated juice runs from the press.

Keep in mind that each frozen grape only yields a few precious drops of juice. Combine that with the extreme working temperatures and it’s easy to see why ice wines can be expensive. Expect to pay upwards to $40 a half bottle – but these wines are well worth it!

While the distinction of making the first ice wines belongs to the Germans, Canada has become the world’s largest producer of this winter nectar. This is because the cold winters and unusually consistent freezes provide ideal growing and harvesting conditions.

In Canada, ice wine production is regulated; grapes must freeze naturally to be called ice wine. Founded in 1975, Inniskillin Wines grows its grapes in the appellation of Niagara’s Peninsula in Ontario. It has become one of Canada’s premier estate wineries and producers of exceptional ice wines. The Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine, 2002, is racy and intense with orange blossom, dried apricot and honey. The initial sweetness of this wine bursts on your palate with a beautifully delayed, mouth-cleansing acidity. Also excellent is the Inniskillin Vidal Oak Aged Ice Wine, 2002. Rich and thick with a sweet-tart character, this wine possesses aromas of mango, guava, and apricot. If you prefer non-oaked whites, try the Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine, 2003. This ice wine has a beautifully fruity, floral nose and a lingering finish with litchi, apricot and caramel notes.

Also from Ontario, Magnotta Winery has earned a reputation for its fine ice wines. The Magnotta Vidal Ice Wine, Lake Erie North Shore, 2003, is the winery’s flagship ice wine and has become one of the world’s best selling. Vidal Blanc grapes are often used in ice wines because their thick skin enables the clusters to withstand the inclement weather. Magnotta’s Vidal is smooth, with luscious tastes of apricot, peach, papaya and a hint of spice and honey. Red grapes are also used for ice wines, primarily the Cabernet Franc. While the thinner skin of this grape makes for riskier harvesting, the resulting wine is both elegant on the nose and aggressive on the palate. The Magnotta Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula, 2003, contains flavors of strawberry jam, ripe watermelon, cranberry and dried figs.

Another red option comes from Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery in the western part of Canada. The climate in this region is dryer and warmer during the summer, which produces ripe grapes and intense, pure fruit flavors in the ice wine. The Gehringer Cabernet-Merlot Ice Wine Okanogan Valley, 1998 is somewhat reminiscent of a port with more up-front fruit flavors.

Ice wines generally go well with aged cheeses like cheddar or blue cheeses such as Stilton. Although these wines are intensely sweet, be careful when pairing with a dessert. A dessert that is too sweet will make even these wines taste sour and flat. The general rule to follow is to reduce the sugar in the recipe and have the wine be sweeter than the dessert. Fruit pies and tarts are excellent choices, as well as Bavarian creams and rice puddings.

Whatever you pair them with, ice wines are the perfect winter treat and are a true symbol of the season!

[Vine Sugar]

Category: Food

Comments are closed.