Thursday, January 26, 2012

Q: What is Ice Wine?

A: Ice wine (Eiswein in German) is a term that is designated for wines that are produced from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine.

Frozen Grapes
(Picture from Google Images)

Production of ice wine is a very time intensive and difficult process.  Yields are decreased because berries actually shrink in size.  However, the sugar and acid is concentrated in each berry when the water inside the berry freezes.

Typically, harvest occurs when the temperatures are extremely cold and all the picking is done by hand.  It's quite a cold process!!  

(Photo from Google Images)

(Photo from Google Images)

The grapes are immediately pressed in the cold tempeartures.  The frozen grapes create a solid block when pressed while a thin stream of sugary, acidic juice is released from the berries.  That juice is then fermented to make wine!

Iced Grapes Pressing Block
(Photo from Google Images)

The most common varieties that are used to hang through the super cold winter months are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Vidal Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.  You will often see these varieties marked as "Ice Wine."  Many of these wines are produced in 375-mL bottles to emphasize the delicacy and small yields that come with making ice wine.  But they are delicious!

Riesling Ice Wine
Pair with peach or apricot cobbler (or almond apricot cobbler) or chicken glazed with an apricot sauce... or cheese cake... ok, or vanilla ice cream!
(Photos from Google Images)

Gewurztaminer Ice Wine
Still a good match for spicy Asian cuisine or my mom's sugary apple crumb pie.  I think it could also go well with pumpkin pie, but that's because I like pumpkin pie.  :)
(Photos from Google Images)

Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
Pair this with pecan pie or sweet potato souffle topped with pecans... or hazelnuts wrapped in chocolates
(Photos from Google Images)

Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 
Pair this with dark, dark chocolate or roasted lamb
(Photos from Google Images)

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