Ice Wine (Eiswein)
Ice wine, or Eiswein in German, is a unique style of sweet white wine produced typically in cold wine producing regions. While the style probably originated in Europe in Germany, icewine style wines are now produced in many cold regions such as Canada, particularly in the Niagra region. At their best they are vibrant, very sweet wines which are typically served as a dessert wine. Like other concentrated sweet white wines, many can age for long periods of time.
What Is Eiswein and How Is It Made?
Eiswein is made from grapes which have frozen on the vine! Ideally, the grapes are healthy and ripen fully through the growing season. They are left on the vine late into the season when it gets cold and eventually freezes. The frozen grapes are then picked and pressed. The ice crystals are filtered out and only the concentrated, sweet juice that remains is used to make the wine. The ice crystals are just frozen water, so by filtering them out all the other components of the grape juice, including sugar, are left behind and concentrated.
Therefore, these wines start out life with high sugar levels and intense, concentrated aromas and flavors. The juice is then fermented and aged like other German wines.
Traditionally most ice wine is made from classic German grape varieties, most notably Riesling. However, other grapes like Schreurebe and Vidal are sometimes used.
Some producers have begun making icewine style dessert wines by artificial means. Rather than let the grapes freeze naturally on the vine, the grapes are picked and then artificially frozen. However, most would agree that the best examples of Eiswein are made by the natural method, from healthy grapes that ripened fully on the vine and then froze in the cold fall and winter.
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