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Ice Wine

by on March 2011

Last week I contributed an article to Wine Blogging Wednesday, which happened to be on the topic of champagne. For this blogging event I decided I’d use up some of the champagne in the form of cocktails, which are always great. One of my favourite combination's is champagne and ice wine, which is an expensive combination, but well worth it. After creating the cocktails I was left with some ice wine, which I decided to drink neat and do a quick review, because if you haven’t tried ice wine, it is an absolute must.

Ice WineCanada is the worlds largest producer of ice wine and there are only a handful of countries that have the climate to do so. Germany, Austria and now China are the only other countries able to produce this nectar of the gods. Some wineries in Ontario and British Columbia only produce ice wines and no other products. Luckily, I live only an hour away from this wine region and ice wine is relatively affordable ($30 to $50 per bottle), especially if you visit the wineries. However, that is not always the case if you live elsewhere and the price for ice wine can rival a bottle of champagne, except ice wine is usually sold in 375 ml half bottles.

The grapes that are most common for ice wine production or Vidal, Seyval and Riesling. Many wineries are experiment with different grape varieties to produce unique ice wines and these grape varietals include Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and the red Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc grapes which produce rose coloured ice wines. Also, there are some naturally carbonated ice wines hitting the market, which would make the ultimate combination with champagne.

Ice wine is produced by pressing frozen grapes, that have been harvested when the temperature drops below -10°C for more than 24 hours. The harvest usually occurs at night and the temperatures are usually much, much colder than the -10°C required. So, finding labours to hand pick the grapes is costly, because who really wants to pick frozen grapes at 2AM in the morning when the wind chill is a bone chilling -35°C! Obviously when the grapes arrive at the press they are frozen solid. When pressed the grapes only produce a few precious drops of super sweet liquid, which is about one fifth of what a grape would normally produce. This liquid must have a residual sugar of 125g/litre to qualify as icewine. The honey like liquid is then fermented in stainless steel vats to produce the ice wine.

Ice wines are great young, but they do improve with age. They should be served in a relatively large wine glass and not a liqueur glass, because the nose of these wines needs to be opened up to be truly enjoyed. Proper serving temperature is around 12°C. They are best served with dessert and pair well with fresh fruit, cheese cake and crème brule.

Inniskillin Vidal Icewine (2003)

The colour is pale gold. The first impression you get when you nose a glass of ice wine is the aroma of tropical fruits like lychee and mango. The scent is fresh with a subtle sweetness and in the background you get some earthiness.

The first sip is sweet but is quickly cut by the acidity in the ice wine. The tropical fruits are still present but there is now more citrus flavours with the grape coming through. The finish is a lingering balance of sweetness and acid, which provides an amazing balance.

If you have never tried icewine, I highly recommend you pick up a bottle and give it a try. It is an incredible wine.

How to Serve Ice Wine

How to drink Ice Wine: Ice wine is best served at 12°C and in a small wine glass, not a liqueur glass.