• hkelput

Ice Wine - go with the Floe

Updated: Feb 14, 2019

Ice Wine, Purcari, Cricova, Chateau Vartely
Ice Wine, Purcari, Cricova, Chateau Vartely

For most people, the variants of wine start and end with a simple choice of merlot, cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. For lovers of good wine, the choice goes well beyond the grape varieties. Whilst choosing your favourite type of wine is an important personal decision, wine, like many things in the modern world, goes through phases.

The ‘hip’ drink to be seen with is fluid, in more ways than one. What’s ‘fashionable’ one minute is soon replaced by something cooler. In our case, it’s something much, much cooler. In fact it’s ice cold, or at least, that’s where it starts.

Ice wine may be new to you, but it’s something that’s been around since the late 1700s. Ice wine is a sweet, dessert wine, but one that has a very distinctive beginning that separates it from other drinks. Ice wine can only be produced with grapes that have been frozen whilst they are still on the vine.

Because the production of the grapes, which are usually Riesling or the hybrid Vidal, are determined by the outside temperatures which allow the freezing process to occur, making ice wine is only possible in certain countries and under particular climatic conditions.

Ice wine, or Eiswein, originated from Germany, but is now made all over the world including Canada, Japan and the US. As you would expect, some of the best ice wine comes from places a little closer to home, like our neighbours in Lithuania, Georgia and Moldova.

In the right climate, the grapes used for ice wine freeze, or at least, the water within them does. More importantly though, the sugars do not. This means that the grape juice that develops is much more concentrated and sweet, a key part of what makes a fantastic ice wine, but it’s not just the outside temperatures that creates this beautiful drink.

The grapes themselves must be harvested and pressed whilst they are still frozen, usually at around -7 degrees celsius. A process known as cryoextraction. This means that the pickers often work through the night and only have a very small window in which to harvest them. They work in the coldest temperatures, usually under a blanket of snow on often steep vineyards. Wow. How much fun does that sound?

It’s also a risk for the vineyard owners, who are ultimately at the mercy of mother nature. If the frost doesn’t come before the grapes rot on the vine, then no ice wine can be made.

With the grapes frozen and pressed, it’s only the sweeter juices, which have a lower freezing temperature, that come out of the press. This gives ice wine its characteristic sweet flavour. Because of this, the fermentation process typically lasts around 3 to 6 months and is also done at a lower temperature to ensure the wine keeps its fresh unique taste.

In keeping with its production process, ice wine is best served chilled, where you should allow it to linger on your palate for a split-second longer than you would with a normal wine. As your body temperature warms the wine, more aroma is released. It works as an incredible accompaniment to your dessert course, which will only enhance its typically citrus or tropical fruit flavours.

Don’t worry though, ice wine doesn’t limit the colour choice. You can get ice wine in both red or white variants, although the red is usually a light burgundy or pink colour. It also tends to be sweeter than the white, which is often more of a gold or pale yellow colour, which can darken over time. White ice wine is also more full-bodied than the red.

If you’ve never tried ice wine, then there’s no time like the present. You can check out our stunning range right here

When you’re enjoying your next bottle, surrounded by friends and family, tasting those flavours post a beautiful meal, spare a thought for those picking the grapes in the dead of winter that culminated in the exquisite drink you’ll be holding and honour them in the only way we can, with a toast. How cool is that.

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