ICE WINE- The price you pay for sweetness=> all proceeds benefit the Germans, Canadians, and Americans

Icewine, or Eiswein, originated in Franconia, Germany in 1794. Grapes were left on the vines until the first deep frost, and the freeze cycles that occurred concentrated both the sugars and flavors of the grapes. The process was refined, and now ice wines are highly prized drinks that are created in Germany, Austria, Canada and the United States.

First lets look at a German eiswein firm:

In Germany Dr. Loosen’s Eiswein is a popular eiswein and all German ice wines are made from Riesling grapes. Its 3 a.m. on a cold winter day and owner  Ernst Loosen receives a  call,  “It was my chief viticulturalist,” says one of Germany’s most talked about winemakers. “We knew from the forecast that the frost was coming, but that night the temperature had dropped sufficiently. ‘This is it,’ he told me on the phone. ‘We start picking in an hour.'”

By 4 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2009 Mr. Loosen had raised his team of pickers. Their destination was Erdener Prälat, a vineyard off  the banks of the Mosel in Germany. By 10 a.m. the team had finished. If you have ever wondered why the price of vintage Eiswein can cost as much as £50 for a small bottle — now you know. This is wine-making to the extreme.

Despite Germany’s historical association with Eiswein, the unreliability of its harvest has opened the door to a major competitor. Lately Germany has been experiencing warmer winters making it more and more difficult for German ice wine-makers to keep up.

Canada now produces more Eiswein (they refer to it as ice wine) than any other country in the world as its winters are reliably long and cold. Stylistically, they are a little more forward than their counterparts in Germany because they add more tropical fruit to receive a fuller flavor. This is because unlike Germany where most ice wines are made from Riesling, in Canada they are made from a grape variety known as Vidal. There is still limited availability in Europe but Inniskillin (Canada), Jackson Triggs (Canada) and Mission Hill (Canada) are all worth seeking out.

Now lets move to North America to see how they get the job done: Inniskillin- Most Prestigious Canadian Ice wine and Casa Larga- Most Prestigious American Ice Wine

Inniskillin is located in both the Canadian Niagara Peninsula and the Okanagan Valley. This is where the magical process of crafting Icewine begins.  Triggered by the snap of the wintry elements, the harvest can’t begin until temperatures drop below minus eight degrees Celsius for a sustained period of time. There are rigorous specifications regulating the making of Icewine set out by Canada ‘s quality control board, the VQA (Vintner’s Quality Alliance) and artificial freezing of the grapes is strictly prohibited.

Once the extreme temperatures arrive, Icewine pickers harvest the frozen clusters, in the dead of night. The precious grapes are immediately pressed in the extreme cold to extract the juice. In this process, the water content in each grape remains frozen in crystals, leaving only a few coveted drops of concentrated, intense liquid. Icewine yields are a mere 10-15% of an average table wine harvest. Slowly fermented over the coming months, this delicate nectar will eventually become Icewine. The finished Icewine is intense, sweet and sumptuous, yet balanced with brilliant acidity, creating a unique sensation on the palate. Inniskillin Icewine is well renowned as the world leader in Icewine. It is sold in over 59 countries and is the #1 distributed wine in Global Travel Retail.

Although Canadian Ice wines dominate the current market, we can not forget about the leading Amercian ice wine makers at Casa Larga.

Casa Larga Vineyards is located outside of Rochester, NY in the Finger lakes Wine Region. For 35 years the Colaruotolo family has been committed to producing superior, award-winning wines. Since the 1990’s they’ve produced their award winning Fiori Ice Wines.  The climate at the vineyards on Turk Hill Road in New York is ideal for production of this luscious dessert wine.  Fiori Vidal Ice Wine is the most awarded Ice Wine in the U.S. and is the “World’s Best Dessert Wine”, having won the Trophy for Best Dessert Wine at the 2008 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London.

Casa Larga is deeply rooted in heritage and tradition.  In staying true to these roots, they produce Ice Wine using the authentic methods of the German Eiswein techniques.

  • Grapes are left on the vine through the standard harvest season until late December
  • In early October, the vines are covered with a net to deter birds from feasting on the grapes
  • Grapes are harvested when the grapes are frozen, typically around 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

The grapes are left on the vine past harvest and into the frigid time of winter to reach maturity.  They are harvested typically in late December or early January when the temperature drops below freezing – typically around 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  The vines are not thinned, helping to maintain the high acidity, but the risk involved with producing Ice Wine is high. The longer the grapes stay on the vine, the more prone they are to being damaged or consumed by animals. Weather also plays an important role in producing Ice Wine. Due to the concentration of fruit sugars, it takes a large amount of acreage to produce a small amount of Ice Wine.

The grapes are picked by hand and pressed using a hydraulic press. The syrupy juice trickles down the sides of the press and is gently delivered to a fermentation tank. This yields an extremely concentrated nectar that produces a sweet juice. Cool fermentation is required to maintain a bright nose and beautiful aroma of the wine. The wine is not blended, but is bottled using a mechanical bottling conveyor line. Below is a video about the wine making process at Casa Larga in America:

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