Just listen to us. Even if you don’t like sweet wines, iced wine deserves attention, or at least a chance. It has more nuances than other dessert wines you’ve tasted in the past, and sommeliers are delighted that, they say, juice is one of Mother Nature’s most seductive acts. The grapes hang longer on the vines and are left to freeze before harvesting in the dead of winter. This produces a much more concentrated juice for fermentation, says Gianni Cavicchi, the sommelier at One19 Wine Bar + Food In New York. The result is a sweet wine, he says, but balanced with acidity, viscous and rich in texture.

“Ice wines are a winter miracle,” says Cavicchi. “An ice wine harvest can occur naturally only when conditions are perfect.” Whether it’s a mistake or a crazy idea, he credits the Germans, who in the 18th century harvested grapes in freezing temperatures before dawn. Here’s a quick introduction to this worthy winter wine, plus some sommelier-approved bottles to try at home.

How to make ice wine

Making ice wine is a patient process. The grapes are left on the vine and harvested from November to February. “When frozen, the water inside the grape freezes, but the sugars don’t,” says Gary Schueller, wine buyer and founder of the Subterranean consulting practice, who holds a WSET Advanced Certificate (Level 3). “So when the winemaker presses the grapes, the sugars are very concentrated,” explains Schueller, and the resulting juice is very sweet.

Canada, which is the largest producer of ice wine, even has laws stipulating the temperature at which grapes can be harvested and pressed. While regulations state that temperatures must be as low as -8 degrees Celsius (or 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit), many winemakers expect mercury to drop to -10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) or even lower sooner. harvesting and pressing the grapes. Because the conditions must be right, there is no promise of a successful harvest every year.

“All grapes are hand-picked to ensure only the best and healthiest fruit is used and it takes a lot of labor to harvest the entire crop in just a few hours while the weather is cool enough,” says the master sommelier. Juan Gómez from The Palm Beach Breakers in Florida.

It takes four to five times the number of grapes to make a half bottle of iced wine than it does to make a traditional 750 ml bottle, adds Gomez.

what does it taste like

Unlike other sweet wines that are often made by fortification (that is, adding a brandy) or by drying the grapes after harvesting, ice wine is produced completely naturally.

“Although iced wine is irrefutably sweet, it offers a range of flavors ranging from ripe mango and tropical fruits to juicy nectarines, honey and more,” says Schueller. “Ironically, many of its flavor markers are associated with tropical climates, when the places where ice wine grows are anything but tropical.”

While the style we see the most in North America is a still white wine made from Vidal grapes in Ontario, ice wine is actually made in a wide variety of styles (white, rose, red, and sparkling) and a wide variety of variety of regional grapes. says Mya Brown, wine director at the award-winning Botanical Restaurant in Vancouver.

“The most important element in any wine is balance,” says Brown. “And with a sweet wine, that balance comes from the acidity. Look for ice wines made from naturally high acid grapes like Riesling to find an ice wine that feels sweet, but not cloying. ”

When to serve ice wine

Ice wines are generally enjoyed as an aperitif or dessert, and should be served cold between 54 and 56 degrees. If you’re feeling adventurous, it can also make a great cocktail ingredient.

The best sides complement the wine’s delicate notes: fresh fruit, flavored soft cheeses, or marbled blue cheese like Stilton, notes Brown. Red ice wines pair brilliantly with chocolate or spiced nuts.

Tips for buying ice wines

As you delve into the world of ice wine, here are some expert-approved tips to help you find the right bottle.

  • Ice wines are generally lower in alcohol than other wines, typically starting around 6.5% to 11.5%, says a wine educator. You love Gangemella . When buying chilled wine, you will notice that the bottles are smaller in volume and often taller and thinner.
  • Ice wines are very dependable and trustworthy and rarely have bad vintages, according to Cavicchi. “If you find one you love, join the winery’s wine club to get the best access,” he recommends.
  • White varieties are much more common in ice wine. Vidal and Riesling are perfect places to start and are among the most common, but the red varieties are worth looking for. “You will be amazed to taste cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and even the zweigelt expressions of iced wine,” says Schueller.
  • Producing ice wine is an expensive endeavor. Because of this, most ice wine is packaged in 375 ml “half bottles”. Expect to pay $ 50- $ 65 or more for a good bottle.

Some ice wines to try

1. Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine

This wine comes from an estate in Ontario, Canada, which is widely regarded by wine types as the gold standard for ice wine production. “Winemaker Bruce Nicholson is a virtuoso of frozen grapes, achieving incredibly complex flavor profiles,” says Schueller. Its extremely generous bouquet of fruits indirectly transports the drinker from the tropical mango fields to the orange orchards of Seville. Enjoy it at home with a rich blue cheese and fruits from the garden. “It also pairs really well with fruit-based desserts like banana pudding or peach pie,” suggests Schueller.

2. Break borders Riesling Ice wine

From the shores of New York’s Seneca Lake, this more earthy and honeyed expression of ice wine brims with notes of pineapple, peach, apricot and mango, says Schueller. It also has a baking spice look that you might pick up on. “It’s an undeniably hedonistic experience, but it’s also a well-balanced wine with a spicy acidity that keeps the sweetness in check and prevents it from getting too cloying,” he says. He recommends accompanying it with pineapple cake, creamy cheeses or rich foods such as pate.

3. Leduc Piedimonte ice cider

Ice apple wines, or Quebec ice ciders (often called “Cidre de Glace”), have very similar characteristics to traditional ice wines and have outperformed them in competitions. “They are definitely worth looking for too,” says Cavicchi. Using overripe apples, these sweet wines are an excellent combination with citrus cheeses or desserts. Taking advantage of the freezing temperatures of Quebec and the abundance of apples, this Leduc Piedimonte ice cider has notes of mandarin and orange zest, and is a bit bitter.