Friday, October 12, 2007

A Deep Freeze, and Wine Is Born

Hi Gang,

So my wife and I recently celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary with a wonderful dinner, and yes, you guessed it…some wonderful wine. After that wonderful dinner, we both had dessert…I had this raspberry cheesecake that was just great. But anyway, > the host at the restaurant brought us over some complimentary dessert drinks. Much to my surprise, he brought over an ice wine.

I say much to my surprise because prior to that day I had never tried it before. I know I know, I should be embarrassed but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much I love Port as an accompaniment to my dessert.

And I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. It was pinkish in color, and the nose was light, very fruity and aromatic with scents of green apple and honey. Medium-body with a slight touch of tartness at first in the mouth, but overall it was sweet, very smooth on the finish, and clearly lower in alcohol content than Port wine (at least this one was). If I had to equate it in taste to another beverage, I would honestly say it was like a glass of grape juice with some lemon and honey squeezed into it.

I know quite a few people who say they don’t like the alcohol burn or fume after drinking Port, so this may be an alternative for you to consider. Unfortunately I lost my note with the vintner name on it, but I do know this particular ice wine was from Germany.

Anyway, enough with my thoughts…I’m sure some of you are still saying ‘what the heck is ice wine?’ Well, let me give you some detail from my own research into it.

Ice wine 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, so the result is a concentrated, often very sweet wine. The most famous (and expensive) ice wines are German Eiswein and Canadian ice wine, but apart from these, ice wine is also made in the United States, Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Australia, France, New Zealand and Israel in smaller quantity.

The high sugar level in the must leads to a slower than normal fermentation. It may take months to complete the fermentation (compared to days or weeks for regular wines) and special strains of yeasts should be used. Typical grapes used for ice wine production are Riesling, considered most noble grape in Germany; Vidal, highly popular in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada; and, interestingly, the red grape Cabernet Franc. Many vintners, especially from the New World, are experimenting with making ice wine from other varieties: whites such as, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Blanc; or reds such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ice wines from white varieties tend to be pale yellow or light gold in color when they are young and can maderise (acquiring a deep amber-golden color) as they age. The red varieties tend to have a light burgundy or even pink color like that of rosé wines.

Ice wine usually has a slightly lower alcohol content than regular table wine. Some Riesling ice wines from Germany have an alcohol content as low as 6%. Ice wines produced in Canada usually have higher alcohol content, between eight and 13 percent.

I would love to hear your thoughts on ice wine if you’ve tried it. Do you prefer it to Port wine with dessert? Did you not like it when you tried it? C’mon let me hear from you.

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