Ice Wine: Nature’s Sweetest Mistake

by Sara O. Brown
ice wine

In 1794, an accidental discovery gave the world one of its most unique wines— ice wine; a dessert wine which is known for its sweetness and smooth texture.

The distinctiveness of ice wine lies in the grapes from which it is produced. While the grapes used in other wines are harvested during the fall, the grapes used in ice wine are harvested during the winter when they are frozen.

As a result, ice wine can only be produced in regions which have extremely low temperatures for long periods of time. Even though Germany was the first country to produce ice wine, currently Canada is recognized as the world’s largest ice wine producer.

Here’s a look at the unique world of making and serving ice wine.

ice wine

Cultivating the Grapes

 The process of cultivating grapes for making ice wine can be quite challenging because the grapes are left at the mercy of natural factors for a longer period of time than any other grapevine.

This is because the grapes are harvested only after they are completely frozen. The long wait often results in the loss of grapes, resulting in a smaller harvest than what may have been predicted initially.

ice wine

Making the Wine

The grapes are harvested when they are solid and the temperature reaches 17.6 degrees F, or -8 degree C. Once these perfectly frozen grapes are picked, they are passed through a grape crusher and then a grape press.

While the crusher helps to prepare the fruit for primary fermentation, the grape press is responsible for separating the fermented wine from the rest of the fruit.

The wine is extremely sweet because the low temperature causes the juices to freeze but not the sugars. Due to the presence of high levels of sugar and the frozen state of the grapes, the process of fermentation takes longer in ice wines than in other wines.

As a result of all these factors, the process of producing ice wine is not only time-consuming but also expensive. At the same time, the high costs of production are responsible for the high prices at which individual bottles of ice wine are sold.

The one thing that must always be taken care of is that the grapes need to be frozen naturally; if they are frozen under artificially created conditions then the resulting wine cannot be classified as an ice wine.

ice wine

Pairing the Wine

Ice wines can be separated into red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and white wines like Riesling. However, ice wines are generally sweeter than most other wines because of the way in which they are produced; thus, they are best served as dessert wines.

However, since the wine itself has strong, sweet and luscious flavors, wine lovers usually prefer to pair it with desserts which are made up of milder flavors like cheesecake and ice cream.

Some people also pair ice wine with savory dishes such as softer cheeses and Thai curry, which don’t conflict with the sweetness of ice wine.

Ice wine goes wonderfully well with dark chocolates. The wine compliments the flavor of dark chocolate desserts very well. You can even create a completely new kind of a beverage by adding this sweet wine to hot chocolate—the outcome is divine.

Serving Ice Wine

 The ideal drinking temperature for ice wine can be achieved after freezing it for one or two hours in the freezer or chilling it in the refrigerator.

You don’t need the typical thin wine glasses to serve this sweet wine, as it needs to breathe and enjoys some swirling. Standard wine glasses are perfect for it.

You can enjoy ice wine as a plain dessert wine or in a nice cocktail. You can also experiment a bit and add some crushed ice to the wine to make a rocking ice wine slush.

Many people claim that unlike most other wines, ice wine does not necessarily have to be aged to attain its highest quality. In fact, it’s advisable to consume the wine within four years of it being bottled when its fruity flavors can be best enjoyed.

However, certain varieties of ice wine like Riesling can actually age for much longer. Basically, wines which have higher levels of sugar content and acidity are more likely to age for longer periods of time. Even though the flavors in the aged wine are not necessarily better, they are definitely different from that of the newer ones.

ice wine

Treat Yourself and Others

Ice wine may not be suitable for regular consumption but it’s sure to make your special days all the more special with its refreshing flavors of tropical fruits and high levels of acidity.

While the best ice wines can be quite expensive, it’s also true that wines which are truly inexpensive are almost definitely of poor quality.

However, all wine lovers deserve to treat themselves with this heavenly gift from nature, and most people claim that it’s totally worth the money.

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Becky Breshears May 20, 2018 - 10:53 am

That sounds delicious…I will try and find some soon. Thanks for a great read.

Nancy Zaffaro May 20, 2018 - 2:04 pm

You won’t regret it, Becky! The flavors of a good ice wine are truly unique.


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