Ice wine is a sweeter-than-usual variety that is often served with dessert as opposed to dinner. Most ice wines carry an above-average price tag due to the lower yield of grapes associated with making ice wine, so it is no wonder that many people want to try their hand in making this at home. The process is challenging, but the results can be more than worth the effort.
Ice Wine Grape Selection
The true art behind ice wine is not done by the winemaker, but by nature. In order to make a true ice wine, the grapes need to freeze on the vine. When the first true frost of the season hits your grapes, which should be at least -10 degrees C, you can harvest them in the morning and press them immediately while they are still frozen. If you cannot grow grapes in a region that can expect a full frost, you can simulate the process by freezing the grapes, but the results will suffer slightly. The most common varietal for ice wine is Riesling, which is already a sweeter white wine. However, the process can be mimicked with other, sweeter grapes.
Pressing the Grapes
It is imperative that the grapes are pressed while they are frozen, as this is what makes the ice wine different. By allowing the water in the grapes to freeze, the sugar and other flavors are concentrated, which makes the end product much sweeter. The grapes will yield considerably less than they would if they were thawed out, so be prepared to spend a good portion of your harvest on a smaller amount of wine. You will need to produce the same amount from your pressings as you would normally. If you simply add water to increase the volume, the whole point of making ice wine is lost.
Contiuning the Process
Once you have pressed the frozen grapes, the rest of your winemaking can proceed as usual. The differentiation between ice wine and regular wine is finished, and there is no need to keep the product frozen at this point. Continue using your favorite wine techniques as normal, with the exception that the fermentation may take longer than usual due to the heightened sugar content. When it is complete, serve it chilled with a sweet dessert.
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