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Ice wine

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Ice wine

Grapes for ice wine, still frozen on the vine

Ice wine (or icewine; German 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 pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine. With ice wines, the freezing happens before the fermentation, not afterwards. Unlike the grapes from which other dessert wines are made, such as Sauternes, Tokaji, or Trockenbeerenauslese, ice wine grapes should not be affected by Botrytis cinerea or noble rot, at least not to any great degree. Only healthy grapes keep in good shape until the opportunity arises for an ice wine harvest, which in extreme cases can occur after the New Year, on a northern hemisphere calendar. This gives ice wine its characteristic refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity. When the grapes are free of Botrytis, they are said to come in "clean".

Ice wine production is risky (the frost may not come at all before the grapes rot or are otherwise lost) and requires the availability of a large enough labour force to pick the whole crop within a few hours, at a moment's notice, on the first morning that is cold enough. This results in relatively small amounts of ice wine being made world-wide, making ice wines generally quite expensive.

Ice wine production is obviously limited to that minority of the world's wine-growing regions where the necessary cold temperatures can be expected to be reached with some regularity. Canada and Germany are the world's largest producers of ice wines. About 75 percent of the ice wine in Canada comes from Ontario.[1]


  • History 1
    • In the New World 1.1
  • Ice wine producers 2
    • Europe 2.1
    • Canada 2.2
    • United States 2.3
  • Production 3
    • Requirements 3.1
    • Cryoextraction 3.2
  • Grape varieties 4
  • Characteristics 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


There are indications that frozen grapes were used to make wine in

  • [10] Icewine at
  • [11] Italian Ice Wine
  • Ice wine at Wines of Canada
  • [12] Wine Country Ontario Icewine
  • Icewine informations Icewine website
  • Cole, Trevor (27 March 2013). "Asia's favourite Canadian export".  

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Lawlor, Julia (February 26, 2010). "Frozen Vines (and Fingers) Yield a Sweet Reward".  
  2. ^ a b c Wein-Plus Glossar: Eiswein, accessed on January 22, 2013
  3. ^ Wein-Plus Glossar: Martial, accessed on January 22, 2013
  4. ^ Freddy Price, Riesling Renaissance Mitchell Beazley 2004, pg. 19 ISBN 1-84000-777-X
  5. ^ Freddy Price, Riesling Renaissance Mitchell Beazley 2004, pg. 174-175 ISBN 1-84000-777-X
  6. ^ Hainle: History, accessed on July 6, 2008
  7. ^ Ontario Wine Society: Niagara Icewine, accessed on July 6, 2008
  8. ^ a b Appellation America, December 26, 2007: Kings of the "Ice": Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser
  9. ^ Freddy Price, Riesling Renaissance Mitchell Beazley 2004, pg. 172 ISBN 1-84000-777-X
  10. ^ EU Regulation 885/2001
  11. ^ Waldin, Monty (2010). Biodynamic Wine Guide 2011. Matthew Waldin. pp. 9–76.  
  12. ^ "Monde Selection". Archived from the original on January 10, 2014. 
  13. ^ June 27, 2008: Eiswein suffers under climate change
  14. ^ Deutsches Weininstitut (German Wine Institute): Quality categories, accessed on April 6, 2008
  15. ^ Peachland fire destroys buildings, forces 1,500 from homes | National Post
  16. ^ a b c The Oxford Companion to Wine. "Canada". 
  17. ^ Robinson, Jancis, (January 13, 2007). "What's good and bad about wine in Canada". 
  18. ^ [7]
  19. ^ Robinson, Jancis, (February 1, 2002). "Icewine - worth the money and the hassle?" (PDF). 
  20. ^ a b Schreiner, John, Wine Access (2006). Canada's Most Famous Wine
  21. ^ Bielby, Amy, Food Network, The Skinny on Icewine
  22. ^ Aspler, Tony, (September 14, 2006). "World's most expensive wine puts Petrus in shade". 
  23. ^ Ice wine is called 'nectar of the gods', ""USA Today, Jan 16, 2006
  24. ^ Record number of Michigan wineries make ice wine in 2002 vintage, (January 2, 2003), Sandra Silfven, Detroit News, accessed July 18, 2006.[8]
  25. ^ The Wine Regions of Lake Erie | Articles | Lake Erie Living Magazine
  26. ^ TTB | Wine | Wine Rulings
  27. ^ Ruling 78-4
  28. ^ a b Icewine, accessed on April 6, 2008
  29. ^ Deutsches Weininstitut (German Wine Institute): Must weights, accessed on April 6, 2008
  30. ^ Wines from Austria: Quality Designations in Detail, accessed on April 6, 2008
  31. ^ Wein-Plus Weinglossar: Mostgewicht, accessed on April 6, 2008
  32. ^ [9], accessed on November 24, 2010
  33. ^ Institut Viti-Vinicole Grand Duché de Luxembourg: Spezialweine, accessed on April 6, 2008
  34. ^ Touring and tasting itineraries


See also

Connoisseurs argue about whether ice wine improves with age or is meant to be drunk young. Those who support aging claim that ice wine's very high sugar level (which is often much higher than that of Sauternes) and high acidity preserve the content for many years after bottling. Those who disagree contend that as ice wine ages it loses its distinctive acidity, fruitiness, aroma, and freshness.

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. In most years, ice wines from Canada generally have higher brix degree (must weight) compared to those from Germany. This is largely due to the more consistent winters in Canada. Must with insufficient brix level cannot be made into ice wine, and is thus often sold as "special select late harvest" or "select late harvest" at a fraction of the price that true ice wine commands.

Even though it is normal for residual sugar content in ice wine to run from 180 g/L up to as high as 320 g/L (with a mean in the 220 g/L range), ice wine is very refreshing (as opposed to cloying) due to high acidity. (The titratable acidity in ice wine is almost always above 10 g/L.) Ice wine usually has a medium to full body, with a long lingering finish. The nose is usually reminiscent of peach, pear, dried apricot, honey, citrus, figs, caramel, green apple, etc., depending on the varietal. The aroma of tropical and exotic fruits such as pineapple, mango, or lychee is quite common, especially on white varietals .


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, since the steeping of the skins in the pressed liquid typically used in red wine making is obviously not possible in ice wine production.

Typical grapes used for ice wine production are Riesling, considered to be the noblest variety by German winemakers; Vidal, highly popular in Ontario, Canada; and the red grape Cabernet Franc. Many vintners, especially from the New World, are experimenting with making ice wine from other varieties: whites such as Seyval blanc, Chardonnay, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Chenin blanc, Pinot blanc, and Ehrenfelser; or reds such as Merlot, Pinot noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon. Pillitteri Estates Winery from the Niagara-on-the-Lake region of Ontario claim to be the first winery in the world producing Shiraz (Syrah) ice wine with the 2004 vintage, Semillion, and Sangiovese in 2007.[34]

Red ice wines

Grape varieties

Cryoextraction is the process by which grapes are frozen with refrigeration and pressed. Winemakers subject grapes to temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (or -7 degrees Celsius), and press them while still frozen. Ice crystals remain in the press, while concentrated juice flows out. The resulting wine resembles ice wine. The process of freeze distillation is similar in its concentrating effects, although it occurs after fermentation.


  • For German Eiswein, 110 to 128 degrees Oechsle, the same as for Beerenauslese, depending on the region (wine growing zone) and grape variety.[29]
  • For Austrian Eiswein, 25 degrees KMW, the same as for Beerenauslese,[30] corresponding to 125 °Oechsle.[31]
  • For Canadian Icewine, 35 degrees Brix,[28] corresponding to 153.5 °Oechsle.[32]
  • For Luxembourg Vin de glace, 120 °Oechsle.[33]

The minimum must weight requirements for ice wine is as follows, in the measures used in the respective country:


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. Because of the lower yield of grape musts and the difficulty of processing, ice wines are significantly more expensive than table wines. They are often sold in half-bottle volume (375 ml) or the even smaller 200ml bottle. New World wineries in particular sometimes bottle 200 ml and 50 ml gift packages.

In Austria, Germany, the United States, and Canada, the grapes must freeze naturally to be called ice wine. In other countries, some winemakers use cryoextraction (that is, mechanical freezing) to simulate the effect of a frost and typically do not leave the grapes to hang for extended periods as is done with natural ice wines. These non-traditional wines are sometimes referred to as "icebox wines". An example is Bonny Doon's Vin de Glacière or King Estate's Vin Glace (made from Oregon Pinot gris grapes). German wine law entirely bans post-harvest freezing methods, even if not labeled "Eiswein".

Natural ice wines require a hard freeze (by law in Canada −8 °C (17 °F)[1][28] or colder, and in Germany −7 °C (19 °F) or colder), to occur sometime after the grapes are ripe, which means that the grapes may hang on the vine for several months following the normal harvest. If a freeze does not come quickly enough, the grapes may rot and the crop will be lost. If the freeze is too severe, no juice can be extracted. Vineland Winery in Ontario once broke their pneumatic press in the 1990s while pressing the frozen grapes because they were too hard (the temperature was close to −20 °C). The longer the harvest is delayed, the more fruit will be lost to wild animals and dropped fruit. Since the fruit must be pressed while it is still frozen, pickers often must work at night or very early in the morning, harvesting the grapes within a few hours, while cellar workers must work in unheated spaces.

An ice wine vineyard near Niagara Falls, Ontario


The United States law for ice wines also specifies that the grapes must be naturally frozen. The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) regulations state that "Wine made from grapes frozen after harvest may not be labeled with the term "ice wine" or any variation thereof, and if the wine is labeled to suggest it was made from frozen grapes, the label must be qualified to show that the grapes were frozen postharvest."[26][27]

Select wineries in Northern Michigan put aside a portion of their Riesling grapes each year for the production of ice wine. Ice wine was first produced in Michigan in 1983 by Mark Johnson, who studied at the Federal Research Station and Institute in Geisenheim, Germany. Johnson is currently the head winemaker at Chateau Chantal. Northern Michigan wineries continue to follow the German laws that govern what wine qualifies as ice wine. German law dictates that ice wine must be picked only when the grapes are frozen on the vine. In 2002, six Michigan wineries produced over 13,000 half-bottles of ice wine, a record at that time.[24] A growing number of wineries near Lake Erie, especially in Pennsylvania, New York and Ashtabula County, Ohio also produce ice wine.[25]

Great Western Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York produced the first U.S. ice wine in 1981.[23]

United States

Though Pelee Island Winery and Hillebrand were Canada's first commercial ice wine producers, starting production in 1983, Inniskillin Wines is considered the most widely known Canadian ice wine producer as the first Canadian winery to win a major international award, the Grand Prix d’Honneur at 1991 Vinexpo in France, with their 1989 Vidal Icewine (which was technically an illegal import into the EU[16]), placing Canadian ice wines on the world stage.[20] Pillitteri Estates Winery has emerged in the 2000s as the world’s largest estate ice wine producer.[20][21] In November 2006 the Canadian producer Royal DeMaria released five cases of Chardonnay ice wine with a half-bottle price set at C$ 30,000, making it the world's most expensively priced wine.[22]

The first commercially produced Canadian ice wine was released in Peachland, British Columbia in 1978. [15] In contrast to most other wine-producing regions, Canada, particularly the Niagara Peninsula, consistently undergoes freezing in winter and has become the world's largest ice wine producer.[16][17] It is now produced in all wine growing provinces of Canada, notably in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.[18] Ice wine production in Canada is regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. If the sugar level in the grapes measures less than 35° Brix, then they may not be used for ice wine, a minimum considerably higher than that of German Eiswein.[16] These grapes are often downgraded to a lower designation, such as Special Select Late Harvest or Select Late Harvest. Canadian rules were further tightened in British Columbia in 2000 after a producer dealt with the mild winter of 1999 by moving grapes up to the mountains to seek freezing temperatures.[19]


The most famous (and expensive) ice wines are German Eiswein,[14] but ice wine is also made in European countries such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland at least in smaller quantity. Eiswein is part of the Prädikatswein quality category in the German wine classification. The French language term Vin de glace is part of the wine classification in Luxembourg, but not in France, but is sometimes found on the rare bottles of ice wine produced in Alsace. In most of France, the climate is too warm for ice wine production.


Ice wine producers

After the ice wine production was set on commercial footing, Canadian ice wine quickly became popular with domestic consumers and reviewers, and many other Canadian producers and regions picked up the idea, since the harsh Canadian winters lend themselves well to large-scale production. The international breakthrough of Canadian ice wine came in 1991, when Inniskillin's 1989 Vidal ice wine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vinexpo.[8] The Canadian trend towards increased cultivation of Vitis vinifera (European) grape varieties in the 1990s expanded the palette of varieties available to be bitten by frost. By the early 2000s, Canada was established as the largest producer of ice wine in the world.[9] In 2001, the EU allowed the importation of Canadian ice wine hence recognizing the standard equivalency.[10] More international recognition came in 2007, when Monde Selection, the international institute in Brussels, Belgium, awarded during the International Wine Contest, the Grand Gold medal—its highest honor, rarely accorded to a wine—to Canada’s Northern Ice Vidal blanc Icewine 2005, the first vintage of The Ice House in Niagara, a winery founded by winemaker Jamie Macfarlane.[11][12] [13]

The pioneer status of the Inniskillin winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario[5] led to their first ice wine, produced in 1984 under the direction of the winery's Austrian-born co-owner Karl Kaiser, often being mentioned as Canada's first ice wine.[1] However, ice wine was produced in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia by German immigrant Walter Hainle in 1972. This ice wine was the result of an early and unexpected frost, and yielded 40 litres of wine, which Hainle originally did not intend to sell, although he did so in 1978.[6][7] In 1983, Karl Kaiser and Inniskillin's German neighbour Ewald Reif, as well as two wineries with Austrian winemakers located in another part of Ontario, Hillebrand and Pelee Island, all left grapes on their vines in order to try to produce ice wine. Inniskillin and Reif lost their entire crop to hungry birds, while Hillebrand and Pelee Island were able to harvest a minuscule amount of frozen grapes.[8] In 1984, Kaiser used nets to protect his vines and was able to produce Inniskillin's first ice wine. This wine was made from Vidal grapes and was, in fact, labelled "Eiswein."

In the New World

In Germany in the early 2000s, good ice-wine vintages have been less common than during the 1980s and 1990s. Many wine-growers cite climate change as a cause, a position supported by a study conducted by the Geisenheim Institute.

Throughout the 19th century and until 1960, Eiswein harvests were a rare occurrence in Germany. Only six 19th century vintages with Eiswein harvests have been documented, including 1858, the first Eiswein at Schloss Johannisberg.[2] There seems to have been little effort to systematically produce these wines during this period, and their production was probably the rare result of freak weather conditions. It was the invention of the pneumatic bladder press which made the production of ice wine practical and led to a substantial increase in the frequency and quantity of production. 1961 saw the production of a number of German ice wines, and the wine increased in popularity in the following years.[4] The production has also been assisted by other technological inventions in the form of electrical lighting driven by portable generators (to assist harvest in the cold hours of early-morning darkness, before the sun rises and the grapes can thaw), remotely controlled temperature alarms (after a re-thawing the grapes will spoil very quickly since ice crystals will have destroyed the cell walls; thus the harvest has to be completed within a few hours on the first morning that is cold enough) and plastic films that are used for "packaging" the vines during the waiting period between ripeness and first frost, in order to protect the ripe grapes from being eaten by birds.

It is believed that the first post-Roman ice wine was made in Franconia in Germany in 1794.[1] Better documentation exists for an ice-wine harvest in Dromersheim close to Bingen in Rheinhessen on February 11, 1830. The grapes were of the 1829 vintage. That winter was harsh and some wine growers had the idea to leave grapes hanging on the vine for use as animal fodder. When it was noticed that these grapes yielded very sweet must, they were pressed and an Ice wine was produced.[2] It should be noted that sweet wines produced from late harvested grapes were well-established as the most valued German wine style by the early 19th century, following the discovery of Spätlese at Schloss Johannisberg in Rheingau in 1775, and the subsequent introduction of the Auslese designation. These wines would usually be produced from grapes affected by noble rot. Thus, Eiswein is a more recent German wine style than the botrytised wines.

The first ice wine Inniskillin produced, a 1984 Vidal, was labelled "Eiswein".
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