Yesterday I saw a picture of snow on the ground in Bordeaux and added it to the Uncorked Ventures Facebook Page, we received a few comments about the post which is customary now, but one of those comments came from the Great White North and one of our favorite SEO experts, Jim Rudnick.
He said “sigh…they probably just heard it’s a canuck trick to make our Ice Wine so dang good….those french guys just are copy-cats, eh! ))”
Well played Jim, really well played….but some of our customers and my readers from warmer climates probably saw ice wine and were confused. It’s not something I see in stores here in San Diego, even fine wine shops don’t have much in the way of inventory.
That’s not a good thing either because ice wine is one of the most interesting innovations in the wine industry in some time. For some time, cooler climates have been largely left out of the wine industry, but ice wine gives those areas which have snow on the ground as early as October a way to craft truly world class wine.
To start, ice wine is made from grapes which are allowed to freeze on the vine. Unsurprisingly, Canada and Germany are the two largest producers of ice wine, with a few American states attempting to improve quality with New York State largely taking the lead in that regard.
For German wine producers, it must be nice for those outside of the Mosel region to have a wine which doesn’t give them constant concern about achieving adequate ripeness.
Ice wine does come with its own set of growing conditions and problems associated with them, which helps to lead to the rather hefty price tag often associated with this style of dessert wine.
To start, the grapes need to fully ripen on the vine first and then the producer has to patiently wait for temperatures to drop enough for harvest. Canadian wine producers are slightly more lenient with regulations than their German counterparts, but generally speaking grapes aren’t harvested until temperatures hit 19 degrees Farenheight (-8 Celsius).
Of course, the real reason for the high prices often associated with fine ice wine is that each grape gives only one drop of wine. When this is combined with the risk that producers run every year by leaving grapes on the vine for so long after achieving ripeness (grapes are a deer favorite in winter) you can see why the industry needs high prices for its product.
If you enjoy sweet wines, ice wine is a nice place to start. Among the sweetest of all wines produced, it also carries high enough acidity to achieve a level of balance not found in cheaper alcohol.