- $189 for a six-hour wine tour for up to eight ($850 value)
Ice Wine: From Frost-Covered Fruit to a Saccharine Sip
Some grapes need to build a little character before they’re ready for the barrel. Check out our examination of ice wine to boost your expertise on the sweet side of viticulture.
Although vineyards may be inextricably linked with the image of sun-stained hands handling clusters of plump, colorful grapes, an ice-wine harvest is more likely to involve wool gloves picking at leafless vines half buried in the snow. That’s because in order to create ice wine, the grapes (usually a white varietal, such as riesling or vidal) must be frozen when they’re harvested and pressed. In such a state, very little water seeps from the rock-hard grapes into the must, making it rich with excess sugars and concentrated juices. As a result, the final potion is more viscous than usual wine—and much sweeter, too, with flavors of apricot, lychee nut, and caramel.
The production of ice wine is less efficient than other types of winemaking. The New York Times reports that each ton of grapes used for ice wine yields about one-sixth the volume of a standard batch, an equation whose net result is that each sweet sip of the stuff typically costs a pretty penny. Further complicating supply is the fact that many traditional winemaking regions are too temperate to yield consistent crops of frozen grapes. Canada and Germany currently bottle the most, followed by countries such as Austria and Switzerland and, increasingly, the Finger Lakes region of New York State.