Wine Talk

Snooth User: jamessulis

Ice Wine

Posted by jamessulis, Jan 23, 2015.

I received a nice bottle of Ice Wine from a friend. Although I understand it goes well with fruit and desserts how do I drink this wine?

Is there a way to prepare myself with food, wine temperature or do I just open it and sip it?

I have never tasted this wine and don't know what to expect other than it's sweet like Sauternes.


Reply by GregT, Jan 23, 2015.

Hi James, nice to have you back.

Serve it colder than you'd serve any other wine. Not freezing, but definitely on the colder side. You taste far more sugar the warmer the beverage or food, and the sugar levels in that will make you nauseous at warm temps. You don't have to serve it at the same temp as an ice-cold beer, but I think it's better to serve it too cold than too warm. It will always warm up after a few minutes if it's too cold.

As to what it goes with, most sweet wines shouldn't be served with sweet things. If you're going to have dessert, make the wine the dessert or just have the dessert and then have the wine later. It will go with things like nuts and also with rather salty things like prosciutto, hard cheeses, blue cheese, etc., as well as foie gras. But it's fine just to sip as well.

You don't say what it is, but I'm assuming it's a white wine. Those are generally sweeter than Sauternes. The residual sugar in Sauternes averages somewhere around 150 g/l, give or take say 30 grams, whereas ice wine is maybe 200 grams per liter, give or take maybe 50 grams either way.

There is usually more acid in ice wine too, which might seem counter intuitive, and that is usually malic acid, which we perceive as being more "acidic" than softer acids. That's what makes ice wine seem balanced. It lacks is the added complexity of botrytis but as a result tends to taste very fresh and bright. So for me, they're best consumed really young, because that's when they really shine.


Reply by dmcker, Jan 24, 2015.

Good intro, Greg. Not much to add, other than to ask James to post us his impressions after he opens and pours it...

Reply by duncan 906, Jan 24, 2015.

I do not think it is called 'ice wine ' because of the recommenmded serving temperature.It is called that because the graspes were harvested late ie about the time of the first frosts. Grapes harvested late in the season have a higher sugar content and there is a chance for that well-known fungus called Botrytis to develop and this all leads to a sweet wine.The tem 'ice wine' is really a German expression but it has been used elsewhere in the world. The term is not used in France although France does produce some lovely sweet desert wines notably Sauternes but also Jurancon and Vouvray/Montlouis/Chaume chenin blancs to name but a few

Reply by jamessulis, Jan 24, 2015.

Thanks everyone for all the information. I absolutely love blue cheese. The wine is a 2007 Inniskillin Appellation VQA Niagara Peninsula . Ontario Canada.  The bottle is narrow and is 375 ml.

Looking for an occasion for having it but have learned that finding the right time to drink something special is almost impossible. The best occasion is creating one on a day with little activity (commonly known as a boring day) Those are rare for me, but they pop up on occasion (tic)

Thanks again, when I open it I will post Snooth

Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest

Reply by GregT, Jan 24, 2015.

Well, the grapes for ice wine are harvested much later than the first frost. They are harvested when the grapes are completely frozen, hence the name "ice wine".

But there's a tricky window for harvesting. As the water within the grapes starts freezing, it pushes out the sugars and other compounds into the water that isn't yet frozen. That drops the freezing temp of the remaining water and it keeps going as the temperatures drop. You want to capture the grapes when most of the water is frozen, but when you can still get some juice. So most grapes for ice wine are harvested in just a few hours before dawn and they're pressed immediately before they start thawing. You don't want free run juice for your ice wine.

If the grapes are too cold, you can't press them and people have broken their presses trying to press rock-hard grapes. The idea is that most of the water is ice crystals but there's still some to carry off the sugars and other compounds.

You want the grape temperatures to be at -8°C or around 17°F when harvested, which means it actually has to be even colder when you're doing the harvest because you have to get the grapes to the presses at that temp and they're likely to warm up. So harvest is done in extremely cold weather.

That means the harvest is much later than the first frost. It can be done at Christmas and most often is even later than that, in January or February. As a result, people sometimes tent their vines to keep hungry animals away.

On the other hand, you don't really want botrytis either. I don't think that there's a rule against using botrytized grapes, but the requirements for the wines are different.

For a good botrytized wine you want a thin-skinned grape planted near a body of water in a place where they have long and rather warm summers, where you get some morning fog and afternoon sun. There really aren't that many places in the world where the ideal conditions exist, which is why there aren't botrytized wines from CA but there are late harvest wines.

You don't need all that for ice wine - you need a place where it can suddenly become very cold and stay that way and you want your grapes to have sugar levels around 35 brix or higher. In Germany they make both, but it pretty much depends on the location of your vineyard and most of all, the weather.

In general you don't want to freeze botrytized grapes as those are already concentrated. Ice wine is basically made from a late harvest grape that is frozen. In Canada for example, they don't really have conditions for botrytis but they do have serious cold, so they make ice wine.

The French sweet wines are straw wines, or late harvest, or botrytized. Those are all good in their own way but completely different. However, there are some producers in Sauternes who also freeze their grapes. That's not a natural freeze, it's done by putting them into freezers. People call that ice box wine and it's illegal in Germany and Canada. It is also illegal in Hungary. It shouldn't be legal in Sauternes either, but they need to put out product and so there you are. BTW, it's how some of the CA "icewines" are made.

Reply by jamessulis, Jan 24, 2015.

Reply by GregT, Jan 25, 2015.

It's good stuff James. Vidal is the grape and I haven't had it from anywhere else. Enjoy!

Reply by jamessulis, Jan 25, 2015.

Thanks for pointing that out GREGT


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