In the Northwest, the Canadian Province of British Columbia is by far the leader
in icewine production. But
Washington State especially in the Columbian and Yakima Vallys are increasing
their production with sucess.
A few wineries in Oregon have also started to produce ice wine
The Making of Icewine
The discovery of ice wine was accidental. Due to a cool summer and exceptionally cold winter
in 1794, wine producers in Franconia, Germany, by virtue of necessity, created ice wine by pressing juice
from frozen grapes. They were amazed by the high sugar concentration. It was not until the mid 1800's,
however, that icewine was intentionally made. This occurred in the Rheingau region.
Grapes are left on the vine well into the winter months. The resulting freezing and thawing
of the grapes dehydrates the fruit and concentrates the sugars, acids, and extracts in the fruit, Thereby
intensifying the flavours and adding complexity to the wine. This juice is then fermented very slowly for
several months, stopping naturally. genuine ice wine must be naturally produced; no artificial freezing is
The ice wine harvest, done entirely by hand, commences once the temperature drops below
-10 to -13 degrees Celcius and the grapes have frozen naturally on the vines. As the frozen grapes are
pressed, the natural water portion of the juice remains within the grape skins in the form of ice crystals.
A tiny but precious ration of highly concentrated juice is expressed.
The juice from ice wine grapes is about one-fifth the amount you would normally get if
you pressed unfrozen grapes. To put it another way, a vine will normally produce sufficient grapes to
make a bottle of wine; but frozen grapes would produce only one glass of icewine. This explains the
difference in price between the two.
The finished ice wine is intensely sweet and flavourful in the initial mouth sensation.
The balance is achieved by the acidity, which gives a clean, dry finish. The nose of icewine recalls
lychee nuts. The wine tastes of tropical fruits, with shadings of peach nectar and mango. The high sugar
levels lead to a slower than normal fermentation.
The signature of a great Ice wine is the balancing tension between the sweetness and the
acidity, with seductive tropical fruit flavours followed by a crisp, bracing finish which, when the wine
is swallowed, is vividly refreshing. This brilliantly focused acidity distinguishes the icewine from
Sauternes and accounts for the freshness.* The finished icewine creates a unique sensation on the palate.
Renowned for fruit flavours ranging from mango to peach to lychees, ice wine is truly a
natural wonder and extreme winemaking at its best, yielding the impressions of tropical tastes wrought
from the frigid extremes of the icy northern winterscape.
Typical grapes used for ice wine production are: Riesling Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and,
interestingly, the red grape, Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc Icewine is a light pink colour, similar to a
* Note: Icewine (one word) is used in Canada. In the United
States it is normally written as two words. In Germany it is called Eiswein
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