Ice wine (also known as Eiswein
) is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressured from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine.
There are indications that this practice is very ancient indeed. Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79) wrote about certain grape varieties that were not harvested before the frost had occurred. The poet Martial (AD 40 -102) recommended that grapes should be left on the vine until November, or until they were stiff with frost.
The first post-Roman mentions of wine begin with the harvest of Dromersheim, close to Bingen in Rheinhessen, on February 11, 1830. The winter was particularly harsh and some wine-growers despairingly left the grapes hanging on the vine for use as animal fodder. They then noticed that these grapes yielded particularly sweet must, and so they pressed them and an ice wine was produced. From this point onwards ice wine was produced in reaction to freak weather conditions.
A dedicated effort to consistently produce ice wines began in 1961, which saw the production of a number of German ice wines. Production was assisted by technological inventions in the form of electrical lightning driven by portable generators (to assist harvest in the cold hours of morning darkness, before the grapes thaw) and plastic films that are used for “packaging” the vines in order to protect the ripe grapes from being eaten by birds when the wine-grower waits for frost. Soon Canadian and recently Scandinavian winegrowers have followed suit, finding success while in Germany good ice vine vintages are becoming steadily harder to come by due to climate change.
Look out for:
Inniskillin Vidal, Robert Weil Riesling Eiswen, Dr Pauly-Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube Eiswein Riesling, Von Othergraven Kanzem Altenberg Eiswein.
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