Ice, Eis, BABY - Ice Wine

Ice Wines

Ice wine and eiswein from the world’s coolest regions.

Made from the syrupy nectar of frozen grapes, ice wine (as it’s known in Canada) and eiswein (in Germany and Austria) shows off the sweetest side of a ski season.

“There is no wine more fitting for a winter’s day than icewine,” says Katie Dickieson, winemaker at Peller Estates on the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, Canada.

Not surprisingly, chilly Canada — the Niagara Peninsula in particular — is where most of the world’s icewine is produced. To make icewine, you must have particularly favorable climatic conditions: Summers hot enough to ripen European grape varietals and winters cold enough to freeze them.

In an ideal vintage, the temperature will  also fluctuate between freezing, thawing, and freezing again throughout the late fall and early winter. This helps to gradually concentrate the flavors of highly acidic, aromatic icewine varietals like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sylvaner, Vidal, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.

“Over the vintage the grapes develop characteristics that are influenced by the conditions of the season,” explains Gabriel Demarco, assistant winemaker at Cave Spring Cellars on the Niagara Peninsula.

“The complexity of icewine is also strongly influenced by the terroir surrounding the vines.” Outside Canada, top eiswein (and icewine) producing regions include the Mosel Valley in Germany, Burgenland in Austria, and the Finger Lakes region in New York. Dave Breeden, winemaker at Sheldrake Point Vineyards in the Finger Lakes area, points out that there are not too many other places where you can make icewine these days. “It’s even gotten warm enough in Germany,” he  says, “that it’s not something they can do on a regular basis anymore.” (Before Germany’s 2015 vintage — harvested in early 2016 — the last quality eiswein vintage there was in 2012.)

“It makes for a delicious reward after a ‘hard’ day of carving the slopes.”  — Gabriel Demarco, Cave Spring Cellars.

“Icewine is also very difficult — and risky — to make,” Breeden says. “There’s  the possibility of losing the grapes to rot or predation by birds or bears or zebras, or whatever you’ve got out there.” (He jokes about zebras, but wild boars are real predators in some icewine regions, as are deer.)

Keeping the grapes thriving on the vines into winter and protecting them from rot and pests is only half the battle. Because the grapes must be harvested and pressed while completely frozen, picking and pressing them (usually on a frigid night in January, hours before dawn when the grapes more closely resemble marbles than fruit) is also far more challenging than the table wine harvesting process. Dickieson adds that because the juice is much higher in sugar than juice from regular wine grapes, the fermentation process is also more challenging.

But this is all part of what makes these luscious dessert wines — often referred to as “liquid gold” — especially precious. “It’s the rarity and the beautiful, amazing flavors,” says Breeden.

Cave Spring’s Gabriel Demarco, who is also an avid skier, unabashedly recommends icewine as an après-ski beverage. “It makes for a delicious reward after a ‘hard’ day of carving the slopes.”

An added bonus: Icewine makes you slow down, Dave Breeden says. “You can’t gulp icewine; you have to take small sips. Slowly sipping icewine in front of a beautiful stone fireplace with a fire roaring is quite nice.”

 

 

pillar ice wine

 

 

Peller Estates

Niagara Peninsula, ON, Canada
2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine $75

Ripe and refreshing with notes of strawberry jam, redcurrant, sour cherry, raspberry, and plum. Caramelized pomegranate on the finish.

Website

 

 

Cave Spring Cellars

Niagara Peninsula, ON, Canada 2013
Riesling Icewine $60

Concentrated and luscious with pine, honey, nectarine, pineapple, and other tropical  fruit notes. Mouthwatering acidity supported by firm minerality.

Website

sheldrake ice wine

 

 

Sheldrake Point Vineyard

Ovid, Finger Lakes, NY, USA 2014 Wild Ferment
Riesling Ice Wine $100

The wild fermentation process of this icewine yields a mouthful of honey flavors and layers of tropical and citrus fruits — pineapple, mango, lemon, and lime.

Website

 

 

Cave Spring Cellars

Niagara Peninsula, ON, Canada 2013
Riesling Icewine $60

Concentrated and luscious with pine, honey, nectarine, pineapple, and other tropical  fruit notes. Mouthwatering acidity supported by firm minerality.

Website

 

 

Dr. Loosen

Bernkastel/Mosel, Germany 2012 Riesling Eiswein $78

A delicate medley of apple, pear, and stone fruit mingled with honey, citrus, and slate. Elegant with vibrant acidity and flinty minerality.

Website

 

 

Weingut Angerhof Tschida

Illmitz, Burgenland, Austria 2012 Grüner Veltliner Eiswein $33

Crisp acidity with lush tropical fruits. Additional notes of peach, pear, peppermint, lemon, and hints of tobacco.

Website
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