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Ice wine just might be the craziest wine out there. The more I think about it, the crazier it sounds. Imagine a vineyard where the grapes are left to dangle on the vine, exposed to the outdoor elements until Frosty the Snowman himself comes and picks the frozen bunches. He then goes and puts the frozen grapes in a press and squeezes them in such a way that only the deliciously sweet and concentrated juice comes out. Afterwards, everybody in the winery joins hands and sing “let it snow, let it snooow…” I might be exaggerating a bit to make a point but trust me, making ice wine is no easy task.
Making ice wine is brutal, or so I’m told. First, you need these particular conditions to produce it. Not too warm, not too cold, and definitely not too soon nor too late. Leaving the grapes on the vine any longer than optimal ripeness is pure madness; it's basically an open invitation for all kinds of trouble, like rot or hungry wild boars for example. To even achieve optimal ripeness in a bunch of grapes, not to mention an entire vineyard or multiple vineyards in different locations, is the result of hard work and sheer luck.
Some countries have stringent rules that apply to ice wine, like minimum temperature for harvest. If specific criteria are not met, no ice wine can be produced. Next time when you’re browsing for some ice wine in your local shop and wonder about the relatively big price tag, don’t complain. Just be glad there are still some brave men and women who still go above and beyond to produce this tasty drink.
Here is a list of ice wines that will melt your heart.
Dr. Loosen Riesling Eiswein (Germany)
Winemaker Ernst Loosen makes his Riesling Eiswein with surgical precision and manages to capture the piercing acidity of this specific grape variety which gives a delicate balance to the wine. A glass of this combined with some creamy blue cheese is a guaranteed success.
Nittnaus Eiswein Exquisit (Austria)
Nittnaus Eiswein Exquisit is a charming ice wine from the wine region of Burgenland. Ice wines made with Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s flagship grape variety, have this wonderfully bright fruitiness compared to Riesling which is sometimes a bit more austere.
Pillitteri Icewine (Canada)
Yes, Canada makes wine. When it comes to ice wine, Canada and especially the province of Ontario, is a significant player. Pillitteri Icewine is made with a particular grape variety called Vidal, and it's a delightfully sweet wine to pair with a wide range of desserts.
Weingut Nigl Eiswein (Austria)
If you are looking for an ice wine that you can leave in your wine cellar for decades, this is Weingut Nigl Eisewein. A well-structured wine with an intense but beautifully balanced flavor profile. If you have the patience to wait, which I do not, you are in for a treat.
Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine (Canada)
Inniskillin is a well-known Canadian ice wine producer. They even make a sparkling ice wine! This red ice wine is a fun example of what you can do with this wine category when it comes to red grape varieties. There is virtually no skin contact, so the color comes just from the pressing. Packed with sweet but fresh strawberry and red berry flavors. Yum!
No Ice, please
Though some might interpret ice wine as a suggestion to serve the wine ice cold, or even worse with ice, it only refers to the wine-making process. There are a bunch of laws on how to make ice wine but not the way you drink it. So, if you feel like having ice wine with shaved ice, you can, but I’m here to tell you - don’t!