From Winespeed, this is an article about Eiswein:
Even though Ontario’s wineries have only been making commercial ice wine since the 1980s, today they average a total of 224,500 gallons (850,000 liters) produced annually. Ice wine, however, has been around since at least 44 AD when the Roman writer Pliny reported on wines made from frozen grapes. In Germany, where it is known as eiswein, the sweet elixir is documented for the first time in 1830. After a sudden frost, winegrowers discovered it while attempting to save their grape harvest rather than feed the frozen grapes to their livestock, as was typical until then.
Canadian ice wine is made from very ripe grapes of at least 35° Brix (in Germany, grapes need only reach 26-30° Brix depending on the region) that have frozen naturally on the vine. In Canada, they must be picked while the air temperature remains at or below -8° C, or 17.6° F, by law (in Germany it’s -7° C or 19.4° F), often well before sunrise, by workers wearing gloves so their hands don’t freeze. The most common ice wine varieties are vidal blanc and cabernet franc (in Canada) and riesling (in Germany). As the frozen grapes are pressed, the sweet, high-acid, concentrated juice is separated from the ice (the water in the grapes). Musts with these levels of sugar are difficult for the yeasts to process into wine. As a result, ice wine tends to have very high natural sugar levels, typically exceeding 100 grams per liter, yet with low alcohol levels of just under 8% alcohol by volume. The wine is miraculously high in both sweetness and acidity, making drinking it an ethereal sensation. Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate sufficiently cold to ensure an ice wine crop every year.
Here is a little secret. If I taste a white wine that seems a little “off”, I have been known to add a few cubes of ice.
So, what is ice wine? I know they tend toward sweetness, and involved letting the grapes freeze (20 degrees F) on the vine. So, the juice inside the berry becomes more concentrated. The production process is risky, and involves great timing. As a result, small amounts are produced, and tend to be relatively expensive, $20 to $50 range (fermentation is 2 to 6 months).
Many call it is sweetest mistake ever made. A few varietals used for ice wine include: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Chenin blanc, Cab franc, Vidal blanc, and Gruner Veltliner. Besides Canada and Germany, ice wine is also produced here in the U.S.
It’s been supposed that in Franken, Germany, during a particularly cold winter in 1794, winemakers were forced to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The resulting wines from that vintage had an amazingly high sugar content, along with great flavor. Thus, the technique became popularized in Germany. By the mid-1800s, the Rheingau region was making what the Germans called eiswein.
As ice wine is a dessert wine with explosive fruit flavors and on the high-sweetness end of the spectrum, you’ll want to pair it with somewhat subtle desserts containing enough fat to balance the taste profile. If you prefer more savory, late night snacks, a great pairing option with ice wine would be softer cheeses.
A few desserts that pair well with ice wine: cheesecake, vanilla pound cake, ice cream, coconut ice cream, fresh fruit panna cotta, and white chocolate mousse.As I mentioned in a previous email: The pandemic spawned over 2500 wine-based subscription boxes and wine clubs tracked by Cratejoy, an online subscription box marketplace. Growing rapidly in popularity, subscription boxes are recurring shipments of products (both niche—Champagne, cigars—and general—razor blades, meal kits) curated for you and packaged in a box designed to create an experience. Many consumers use them to learn about new brands. Subscription services often offer discounts on follow up purchases of items from the box. I love this concept, and hope to see more businesses adopt this.
While I am not a big fan of sweet dessert wines, I have enjoyed Sauternes, Italian passitos, vintage Ports, and (Hungarian tokajis. Always keep your mind and palate open to new and exciting tastes.