The first Icewine (EisweIn) is believed to have been made in Germany in the late 1700s when freezing weather struck before the grape crop could be harvested. The winemaker persisted, harvesting and pressing the frozen grapes and fermenting the juice to a sweet wine. Germany and Austria continue to produce Eiswein but their moderate European winters do not always provide the cold weather needed to freeze the grapes.
German immigrants to Canada carried on the tradition of Eiswein in their new country, with Icewine being made in British Columbia and Ontario beginning in the 1970s. With almost ideal climate conditions for the reliable production of Icewine – warm summers to ripen the grapes and cold but not too cold winters – Ontario is now a leading Icewine producer and has earned global acclaim for its Icewines.
What is Icewine ?
Icewine is wine made from grapes that have been left to freeze naturally on the vine.
What does it taste like?
Icewine is a luscious, intensely flavoured wine, boasting rich aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruits (such as lychee, papaya and pineapple). All varietals are sweet, but with a firm backbone of acidity, making them perfectly balanced.
How do I serve it?
Chill your Icewine first. It’s called a “dessert wine,” which means you can enjoy it with dessert—or make it, alone, the dessert!
Icewine is also a perfect complement to rich, strongly flavoured foods, such as foie gras and aged blue cheeses.
Finally, you can also use it as a “dosage”—try adding a splash to give a new dimension to sparkling wine or cocktails.
How is it made?
Icewine must be made from approved grape varieties; the most popular are Vidal, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The season starts with netting the grape vines in the autumn, to protect the grapes from being devoured by birds. Grapes are left on the vine until a sustained temperature of -8°C or lower is reached (sometime between December and February). During the time between the end of the growing season and harvest, the grapes dehydrate, concentrating the juices and creating the characteristic complexities of Icewine.
Grape growers and wineries carefully watch the weather, looking for an optimum stretch of temperatures between -10°C and -12°C. This range will produce very sweet juice in the range of 35°Bx to 39°Bx (degrees Brix, a measurement of sugar). Typically, a period of at least six hours is needed to harvest and press the grapes—usually during the night. Many wineries harvest by hand.
While still frozen, the harvested grapes are pressed, leaving most of the water behind as ice. Only a small amount of concentrated juice is extracted. Juice yields for Icewine grapes are much lower than for table wines—only 15% of the expected yield for grapes harvested for table wines. The juice is very sweet and can be difficult to ferment. High sugars can create a hostile environment for the yeast, and fermentation stops early, leaving relatively low alcohol and high sugar levels in the finished wine.
No matter how the wine is ultimately made, the result is liquid gold, some of the finest dessert wine in the world that’s perfect for toasting the holiday season.