It has been referred to as “the nectar of the gods”. In the past decade, it has achieved “Prada handbag” status in the wine-drinking world, with counterfeit ‘faux’ product being manufactured and sold in Asia. Ice Wine is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after luxury goods for the urbane wine drinker.
First produced in the late 1700s in Franconia, Germany, “Eiswein” (in German) was created from frozen grapes left on the vines until the first deep frost. Grapes were pressed while still frozen, with the ice being discarded, to capture the sugar, acids and extracts from the grapes and produce this very intense wine. Today, Canada has become the largest producer of Ice Wine in the world due to its favorable climatic latitude, with Germany and Austria still continuing to produce smaller quantities.
Timing is fundamental in producing Ice Wine, as the sugar content varies with the temperature of the frost. Ideal temperatures range from at least -10C to -13C. However, when grapes are left on the vine late in the season, they risk the elements, such as disease from autumn rain, or too extreme temperatures, as well as birds and other animals looking for a last meal prior to winter. Since Ice Wine is highly regulated, the wine must be naturally produced, and in some years wineries will lose entire production as crops succumb to nature’s forces.
Wine producers will spend countless nights preparing for harvest. When the temperature is just right, grapes will be handpicked and immediately pressed. Each grape yields approximately 1/10th the amount of extract than would be yielded within a regular wine process; an entire vine often only makes a single bottle of wine. The liquid is then fermented and aged in barrels for a few months.
The final product – a wine rich in color and taste: golden and tawny hues with incredibly intense flavors of peaches, apricots, and honey melons. Simply exquisite.
Ice Wine retails at prices of approximately $50 – $100 per half-bottle and can often be found in specialty wine stores or boutiques. Canadian Ice Wine is available in Harvard Square at University Wines on Massachusetts Avenue. Two excellent choices are the Vidal selections from Inniskillin and Peller Estates Wineries. A 375-ml bottle of Inniskillin Vidal 2002 retails for $59.00. A bottle of 375-ml Peller Estates 1998 Vidal Ice Wine can be purchased on Winezap.com for $40.00.