Ice wine is an expensive type of dessert wine that is produced from frozen grapes while they are still on the vine. A natural ice wine requires freezing temperatures sometime after the grapes are ripe. The grapes that produce ice wine must be pressed while they are still frozen. Ice wine grape pickers usually work at night or in the early mornings because of this. The ice wine grapes are usually harvested in a few hours.
What makes ice wine unique is its distinct taste? Ice wine is characterized by a taste of refreshing sweetness. When ice wine grapes are on the vine and frozen, their sugars and other dissolved solids (acids and extracts) do not freeze, they are concentrated. However, the water of the ice wine grapes does freeze and the grapes become dehydrated. This is what contributes to the sweet taste of ice wine.
Ice wine grapes freeze before they are allowed to ferment. One notable thing about ice wine grapes is that they are not affected by Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that affects wine grapes. This means that before harvesting, ice wine grapes are healthy and in good condition. Only healthy grapes can be harvested and when the grapes are free of Botrytis cinerea, the offer a better tasting wine.
Ice wines are usually produced in Northern regions that have very cold temperatures. The most famous and expensive ice wines are produced in Germany (Eiswein) and Canada. One of the most famous ice wines is produced in Canada’s Niagara region at the Inniskillin winery. In these countries, ice wines can cost anywhere from $50-$70 (Canada) and $90 and up (Germany). Ice wine is also produced in the northwestern United States, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Australia, France, New Zealand and Israel.
In Germany, Canada and Austria, ice wine grapes must freeze naturally in order for their wine to be called ice wine. In contrast, some wineries use a process called cry extraction to produce non-traditional ice wines. Cryoextraction is a mechanical freezing of the ice wine gapes. Cryoextraction simulates the effect of the frost on naturally frozen ice wine grapes. Grapes that have been mechanical frozen are harvested differently that naturally frozen grapes. Ice wines produced in this fashion are sometimes referred to as “icebox wines.”
The grapes used to produce ice wine are usually Riesling, Vidal and Cabernet Franc. Riesling grapes are a white grape that is grown in Germany, France, Austria and Italy. Vidal grapes are a white grape hybrid cross between Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or grapes. Cabernet Franc grapes are red wine grapes that are grown in Bordeaux, France. Most ice wines have lower alcohol content than regular wines. Som