With Snow and Frost Comes Eiswein or Ice Wine

Eiswein or Icewine are a Type of Dessert Wine Made From Frozen Grapes:

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Ice Wine Grapes - Image D.Rivard/Wiki

The cold weather, snow and frost are elements that are usually not conducive for growing anything.  But for producers of Eiswein (German for ice wine), snow and frost are just the perfect conditions that they pray for.

So What is Ice Wine?

Ice wine is a type of dessert wine that is produced from grapes that have been frozen while still hanging on the vine. It is believed that ice wine was first invented in Franconia around 1794.

Germany and Canada are the two main producers of ice wine and in both these countries, the grapes must freeze naturally on the vine in order to qualify as ice wine. No mechanical cryo-extraction of the grapes is allowed. In Germany, the grapes are required to be frozen at a temperature of -7 °C (19 °F) or colder and in Canada it is a legal requirement that the grapes are frozen at -8 °C (17 °F) or colder. Ice wine might remind you of Sauternes and other dessert wines, but the big difference is that unlike Sauternes ice wine grapes must not be affected by Botrytis.

Production of Ice Wine

The production of ice wine is a risky and labour-intensive business and the conditions harsh for those involved. As the grapes have to stay on the vine for months after the normal harvest time, the yields are very low and as such the prices for ice wines can be quite expensive. The ripened grapes have to be kept healthy on the vines, away from disease and foraging birds and insects until the cold weather arrives.

There is a sense of urgency in the production of ice wine.  When the required temperature occurs,the frozen grapes have to be harvested immediately requiring the pickers to work at night or in the early morning.  If the freeze is too severe, juice extraction becomes difficult. The frozen grapes are pressed immediately, and requires workers to work in unheated premises.

Whilst Riesling is considered to be the most suitable grape variety by German winemakers, other grapes are used as well including merlot and pinot noir.

Unlike other dessert wines, ice wines are refreshing and not cloying. They also usually have a slightly lower alcohol content than regular table wine.

Ice wine vintners can be found in many of the wine growing regions of Germany, including the Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen and Pfalz. Just follow the snow trail.

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