Wine Geek Speak: Eiswein a.k.a Ice Wine

Hello Friends,

This week’s wine geek speak is Eiswein, which is German for “ice wine.” In the U.S we call it “Ice Wine”, and in Canada it goes by “Icewine.” While you may find some tasty ice-styled wines here in Virginia tasting-rooms, for the real deal, we look to wine regions like Germany and Canada, and as nearby as the Finger Lakes (Upstate New York) for these sweet liquid treats. I was recently reminded of my appreciation and affinity for these dessert wines when fellow wine-blogger and friend Brian Kirby of theother46 wine blog made mention of cupcakes on Twitter. The very first thing that popped into my head was a moist and rich ‘Actually Dipped Chocolate’ cupcake from Cupcakes Actually in Fairfax, paired with a glass of Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine. So we raise the question - what is Eiswein and why do we care?

Grapes Frozen on the Vine

For a true Eiswein the grapes must picked while frozen on the vine and pressed before thawed. For this reason alone, there are only a few places in the world where this wine can be produced. Because much of the water in the berries is frozen, when pressed, the resulting juice is far less yield-wise, but highly concentrated, rich, and flavorful. That is one reason why true ice wines can be so pricey - you are not getting much juice out of those berries. Additionally, the frozen berries are usually left hanging up to three months after harvest and picked at night when it’s the coldest. Leaving grapes to hang this long after ripening is risky. What if Mother Nature decides to be difficult? And let’s not forget our feathered pals, who crave ripe grapes – frozen or not. When everything works correctly, the resulting wines are typically mouth-filling, rich, and deliciously sweet with high natural residual sugars, balanced by high natural acidity. These wines drink well young and have long aging potential due to their high sugar and acidity levels. Now keep in mind that my description of Eiswein is very basic and meant to give you an idea – in the real world there are a number of standards and strict regulations involved to ensure genuineness and quality in the bottle. Eisweins are generally complex and interesting, and that is where, as wine lovers, we come to appreciate the vineyard risks, the hands that picked the berries in the dead of winter, and the winemaking process, which produces this pure and often-times pure & golden hedonistic pleasure we find packaged in attractive 375ml half-bottles. In closing, Eiswein is best served after dinner with a fruit-based dessert such as tarts, pastries, Crème brûlée, or better yet, enjoy a glass on its own as an aperitif and savor and enjoy every last drop! Got a favorite? Drop me an e-mail.

Stay tuned friends ...Next winery review: Del Fosse Vinyards & Winery!

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