Wine Words: Icewine

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Icewine, also known as Ice Wine or Eiswein, is a very special, very sweet wine. Do you know how Icewine is made?

Making Icewine

Icewine is made from special late harvest grapes that are left on the vine to freeze into the winter months. The grapes are harvested when frozen. Freezing concentrates the flavors, acids and sugars in the grapes as much of the water component in the grape freezes into ice crystals. When the grapes are pressed most of the frozen water crystals stay behind in the press, resulting in a small quantity of highly concentrated juice for which to make the Icewine.

Unlike many other late harvest wines, such as Sauternes and Tokaji, that are affected by noble rot, Icewine grapes should be completely healthy and free of any botrytis, even the noble version, so to preserve the delicate and fresh fruit aromas of the grapes.

Because grapes for Icewine generate so little juice, these wines are made in very small quantities and are expensive.

Key Icewine Producing Countries 

While we immediately associate Icewine production with Canada, and especially around the area of Lake Ontario, it was actually first made (and still is) in Germany. Germany and Canada are the world's largest producers of Icewine. However, it is also made in parts of Austria, Luxembourg and the colder North American states such as the Fingerlakes area of New York and Michigan.

In countries like Canada, Germany and Austria, there are specific regulations regarding the production of Icewine such as how low the temperatures must drop before harvest for Icewine can begin, minimum grape ripeness levels, and minimum residual sugar levels in the final wine.

The Canadian wine producer Iniskillen is the world’s most well known and largest producer of Icewine.

Cryoextraction – A Modern, Artificial, Technological Method for Making Icewine

Cryoextraction is another method for making Icewine. With this method the grapes do not actually freeze on the vine, but rather are harvested at the appropriate ripeness and then artificially frozen to concentrate the grapes. Artificial freezing is prohibited in Canada, Germany and other regulated old world Icewine producing countries.

Previous Wine Word: Barrique

(Image: Underlying image by Sadovnikova Olga/Shutterstock)

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.