How Is Ice Wine Made

Ice wine is one of my absolute favorite types of wine. The process of making ice wine is truly fascinating and results in a unique and delicious product. In this article, I will take you …

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Ice wine is one of my absolute favorite types of wine. The process of making ice wine is truly fascinating and results in a unique and delicious product. In this article, I will take you through the intricate process of how ice wine is made, adding my personal touches and commentary along the way.

The Magic of Ice Wine

Ice wine, also known as Eiswein, is a type of dessert wine that is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. This freezing temperature, often below -8°C (17.6°F), allows the grapes to concentrate their sugars and flavors, resulting in a rich and luscious wine.

What sets ice wine apart from other wines is the fact that the grapes are left on the vine long after the regular harvest season. They are not harvested until the temperature drops to the ideal freezing point. This requires careful monitoring by the winemakers, as they need to be ready to pick the grapes at a moment’s notice.

The Harvest

When the temperature finally drops to the desired level, it’s time to begin the harvest. This usually occurs during the early morning hours, when the grapes are at their coldest. As a wine lover, I can tell you that there is something truly magical about standing in a vineyard illuminated only by the moonlight, picking frozen grapes.

Each grape is carefully hand-picked to ensure only the highest quality fruit is selected. This process can be quite labor-intensive, as the grapes are delicate and easily damaged. However, the hard work pays off, as only the best grapes are chosen for ice wine production.

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The Pressing

After the grapes are harvested, they are taken to the winery for pressing. This is where the real magic happens. The frozen grapes are pressed while still frozen, and because the water is frozen, only the sugars, flavors, and acids are released. This results in a highly concentrated grape juice that is the base for ice wine.

It’s important to note that the pressing process for ice wine takes much longer than regular wine pressing. The frozen grapes release their juice slowly, and extreme care must be taken not to overpress and extract any bitterness from the seeds or skins.

The Fermentation

Once the grape juice is extracted, it is ready for fermentation. The juice is transferred to stainless steel tanks or oak barrels, where it undergoes a slow and controlled fermentation process. This can take several months, as ice wine fermentation requires a much lower temperature than regular wine fermentation.

During fermentation, the natural sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol, resulting in a sweet and flavorful ice wine. It’s important to note that ice wine is typically high in sugar, making it a perfect dessert wine.

The Aging Process

After fermentation, the ice wine is aged in the winery for a period of time. This allows the flavors to develop and mellow, creating a more complex and balanced wine. The length of aging can vary depending on the winemaker’s preference, but it’s not uncommon for ice wine to be aged for several years.

The Final Product

Once the ice wine has reached its desired maturity, it is finally ready to be bottled. The bottling process is similar to that of regular wine, with the wine being carefully filled into bottles and sealed with a cork or screw cap.

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Ice wine is a true labor of love, requiring patience, dedication, and a bit of luck. The end result is a wine that is incredibly sweet, yet balanced and full of complex flavors. It’s a wine that pairs beautifully with desserts or can be enjoyed on its own as a special treat.

In Conclusion

Ice wine is a truly unique and special type of wine that requires a meticulous and delicate winemaking process. From the harvest of frozen grapes to the slow fermentation and aging, every step is crucial in creating this exquisite dessert wine.

As a wine enthusiast, I find the process of making ice wine to be absolutely fascinating. The dedication and skill of winemakers in producing this delicacy is something to be admired. So, the next time you have the opportunity to enjoy a glass of ice wine, take a moment to appreciate the journey that went into creating this remarkable beverage.

John has been a hobbyist winemaker for several years, with a few friends who are winery owners. He writes mostly about winemaking topics for newer home vintners.
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