Sweet wine is in vogue, and that’s exciting! Still, not all sweet wine is created equal. Amongst the most extraordinary dessert wines, there’s ice wine. Some of the most exclusive sweet wines fall into this category but explaining what ice wine is can be complicated — after all, these wines are unlike any other.
This is our quick guide to ice wine. Let’s talk about what ice wine is and how it is made. The best part? Ice wine is a Canadian specialty, so if the information below spikes your interest, you can always reach out to us to learn more about it. Let’s get started!
What is Ice Wine?
Ice wine, known in Germany as eiswein, is a unique sweet wine style made with frozen grapes, but this is easier said than done. Only the northernmost wine regions have the right conditions to allow the wine grapes to hang on the vine until the first winter frosts freeze them solid.
The frozen grapes are picked in the early hours and transported to the winery. When pressed, winemakers separate the grape’s sweet, acidic juice while leaving behind the ice shards (the fruit’s water content), resulting in a syrupy liquid with immense sugar concentration — the source of lusciously sweet wine.
When did ice wine come to be? Sources suggest wine made with frozen grapes was already a thing in Ancient Rome. Still, modern ice wine goes back to the late 18th century in Germany, where winemakers made wine with frozen grapes, first accidentally and then purposely.
Germany, Austria and Canada (since 1984) are the leading producers of ice wine for their northern latitudes. Still, winemakers experiment with the style in the United States and as far as Japan. In theory, all ice wine is made similarly.
What Does Ice Wine Taste Like?
Making ice wine might be quite a task, but it’s well worth it. Ice wine’s flavor and aroma depend on the grape used. Still, most of it is made with neutral or aromatic white grapes, resulting in honeyed wines with peachy notes, floral hints and a decadent palate balanced by piercing acidity.
These wines are gorgeous with pâté and other fatty food, and they contrast the tanginess and funk in blue cheese nicely. Ice wine is a dessert in its own right, although it plays well with other sweet treats, especially if overly sweet, like the honey-based baklava.
The best part? Ice wine is incredibly age-worthy, and you can store a bottle of the golden nectar for decades!
Ice Wine, A Truly Rare Wine
Ice wine is not only one of the rarest, sweet wines in the world but also one of the most sophisticated. Unlike most wine styles, not anyone can make ice wine — grape growers and winemakers must work in hand with nature to produce these wines, and that’s not always possible.
Ice wine is often expensive, but it’s easy to see why. There’s no other wine like it, and it’s hard to come by! Despite winemakers using modern technology to emulate the style (resulting in fake ice wine), traditional ice wine will always have a special place in the wine world.