With the arrival of winter, snow, and cold, it is time for the cold to do its work in the vineyard. Time for winegrowers and winemakers to make the increasingly appreciated ice wines. It is a complicated and somewhat scarce elaboration. And as is often the case, scarcity is synonymous with increased interest. The human being tends towards the unattainable. And ice wine is a wintry object of desire.
The fermentation of these frozen grapes makes the process slow and expensive, hence fermentation does not usually finish and there is sugar left to consume by the yeasts. The grapes to produce these wines are harvested in a frozen state, which generates a high concentration of sugar.
They are wines with a high price in the market. And they are expensive for two reasons: their difficulty and scarcity. Not all producers are willing to make this type of wine and there must be very specific climatic conditions. In fact, it is not possible to make these wines every year. All this causes its price to rise.
The origin of ice wine
It was the year 1794 when by chance some winegrowers from the northern region of Bavaria (in Franconia) produced the first eiswein (ice wine in German). Due to its limited production and the suitable weather conditions, eiswein became a luxury wine for special occasions. France apparently caught the habit and enjoyed excellent harvests in 1846 and 1880 for the production of Vin de Glacier. But it will not be until the 80s when both Germany and Canada will see the category “Eiswein” and “Icewine” respectively that we know today.
In Canada, in particular, the Vidal and Riesling varieties are used, although more and more snow wine has been made with Gewurztraminer or cabernet franc. The Inniskillin Winery, located in Ontario, produced its first ice wine in 1984. He did so under the direction of the Austrian-born co-owner of the winery Karl Kaiser. It is often considered the first Canadian Ice Wine and was certainly the first to be produced on a larger scale to great critical acclaim.
However, it seems that there is already a precedent for Ice Wine in British Columbia, also in Canada. The German immigrant Walter Hainle in 1972 produced ice wine as a result of an early and unexpected frost, as a result of which 40 liters of wine that he would later sell.
The result is sweet wines among which the famous and award-winning Inniskillin prevails. They gave rise The experts highlight notes of peach, honey, cloves, and vanilla in the nose and deployment in the mouth of intense flavors of orange, lime, and lemon.
Production areas and varieties of ice wine
The best-known production area beyond Canada is Germany, and, to a lesser degree, Austria, the Czech Republic, the northern US, and France.
The grape varieties used are usually Gewürztraminer and Riesling, but Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sémillon, and Vidal are also used. Although less common, red grapes such as Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot can also be used.
Characteristics of ice wines
To speak of ice wines themselves, at the time of pressing the grapes used must be frozen or on the vine. Likewise, the grapes used for the same wine must come from the same region.
The grapes will never be frozen by artificial methods, so the wines in which the grapes are frozen after harvesting are not iced wines. Regarding temperatures, the harvest and pressing will be carried out at temperatures below -8º C. It is not allowed to add additives to the wine, neither before nor after pressing the grapes.
The minimum natural sugar content will be 15% (110 degrees Oechsle or 25.88 Brix), but without a fixed maximum degree. In addition, the finished wine will reach a minimum alcohol level of 5%.
Ice wines in Spain
There are several wineries that make it in Spain, being the pioneer, in 2007, one under D.O. Rueda, the family winery Viña Claridor. Located in La Seca (Valladolid), it began its sale in January 2008.
Another ice wine is Amantia, made in Torquemada (Palencia) by B. Ladrero-Señorío de Valdesneros. It is tempranillo that is harvested in December and that remains four months in oak barrels. There are wines like those of Gramona that are of the type of frozen grapes. They are called “gel vi”.
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