“Every heart is ice-bound till wine melt it.”
So said Herman Melville, and whether he knew it or not, Melville’s observation applied even to ice wine.
And what better time to discuss ice wine than as the 2010 Winter Olympic Games begin to wind down in Vancouver, B.C.?
Ice wine is a sweet treat for wine lovers, the result of using grapes that have been left on the vines much longer than normal (thus developing very high sugar levels), and then fermentation being shut down before all of the sugars have been “burned off.”
Some wonderful renditions have been crafted in Germany for generations, and over the past two decades, Canada has come on strong with some stunning wines.
In Canada, the process begins with the grapes being left on the vine past their normal harvest date, and then waiting for the air temperature in the vineyard to dip to 17 degrees. In other words, the grapes must actually be frozen on the vines.
Inside the grape, all of the water turns into ice, which makes any remaining sugars and juice extremely concentrated.
Then comes the tricky part: picking the frozen grapes, and keeping them frozen until they arrive at the winery. When all goes well, the first juice that emerges when the fruit is pressed is very rich and syrupy, and a truly delicious ice wine results – like dessert in a glass.
No wonder so many ice wines are gold medal winners.