Ice Wine

Definition - What does Ice Wine mean?

Ice wine is a sweet dessert wine made from ripe grapes naturally frozen on the vine. This process creates a wine high in residual sugar and acidity, but usually lower in alcohol. When grapes freeze, the water and sugars separate. Then the frozen grapes are pressed, producing a must that is highly concentrated with the unfrozen sugars. This must is fermented, though for less time than a table wine, resulting in a highly sweet wine balanced by natural acidity.

The Ice wine label - Eiswein in Germany or Austria and Icewine in Canada - is regulated by the World Wine Trade Group Agreement. In Germany, the German Wine Classification established additional labeling laws; in Canada, it is the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). These regulations ensure that any country that wishes to export Ice wine produce Ice wine with naturally frozen grapes.

WineFrog explains Ice Wine

Riesling is the most popular varietal for Ice wine, with Vidal a close second, especially in Ontario, Canada. White varieties produce wines that are pale yellow or light gold. These wines will maderise as they age, becoming deep, amber-gold. Red varieties produce a light burgundy or pink, much like a rosé, because it is nearly impossible to steep the juice in skins.

The most common characteristics are:
  • Highly sweet
  • Refreshing acidity
  • Medium to Full-bodied
  • Long, lingering finish
  • The nose depends on the varietal used; commonly:
    • Peach
    • Pear
    • Dried apricot
    • Honey
    • Citrus
    • Figs
    • Caramel
    • Green apple
  • Aromas of tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, lychee) in white varietals
Ice wine is enjoyed as an aperitif or dessert, sipping it on its own. However, if you want to pair it with food, aim for:
  • Salty dishes. The salt complements the sweetness of the wine and vice versa.
  • Rich dishes. The flavor of the dish competes with the full-bodied flavor of the Icewine, therefore the more flavor in the dish, the better.
  • Spicy dishes. Ice wine’s refreshing acidity will dull the edge of any spicy dish.
  • Fruity dishes or desserts. Just be careful - the dish cannot be sweeter than the Ice wine.
  • Strong cheese. Like the salty dishes, the salt in the cheese will complement the sweetness of the wine.
Whether or not Ice wine should be aged is highly subjective. The high sugar content and acidity could preserve it, however waiting will reduce the fresh, fruity acidity. It is up to the consumer to decide if they set their bottle aside.
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