For years, ice wine has been a special treat sipped mostly by vino connoisseurs. Due to its risky production involving a meticulously timed frost, most bottles have sold for around $100, limiting who could actually afford them. Now, vineyards are using an artificial freezing process to drive down the price and bring ice wine to the masses.
If you’re not familiar with the term “ice wine,” it’s primarily a dessert wine that originated in Germany. It’s made from mostly Vidal and Riesling grapes that are frozen while still on the vine giving them a rich amber or golden-yellow color and is served cold unlike our seasonal mulled wine. Rumor has it that a vineyard farmer was on vacation when he was supposed to be harvesting his crop. When he returned, his grapes were frozen to the core but he decided to press them anyway. Since the sugars don’t freeze (only the water) what he got was a much smaller, concentrated amount of sweeter vino with high acidity content, now named ice wine.
As you can imagine, taming nature and getting the grapes frozen in their ripest stage before they start to rot and at a precise temperature is incredibly risky for farmers. Plus, each batch of frozen grapes only produces a tiny amount of ice wine (sometimes a whole vine for one bottle), thus making it super expensive for vino lovers.
Now, vineyards are circumventing Mother Nature by harvesting the grapes earlier in the fall and aging them in freezers to simulate the natural process. This allows for less risk on the vineyard’s end and is driving prices from $100 to $50 a bottle. Purists and wine tasters insist that nature is the only way to make ice wine and that the artificial freezing method distorts taste and quality. And it's also certainly energy consumptive! Other wine lovers think “who cares?” The debate goes on.
What do you think? Would you try ice wine by artificial methods?
Image by Rivard