I really wanted to call this edition of Griffy on Wine firsts and lasts, first it would tie in well with the New Years, and because of where I am in my life. I’m at a transition point in life.
In my travels in the world of wine I know there is going to be more firsts and not too many lasts and that is exciting. It would be more exciting if I could get a job in the wine industry, but again, I must be patient and persistent.
Icewine is going to be the first of the first’s for 2017. I learned about Icewine six years ago reading about it in the first wine book I ever read, but until now I’ve never tried it. In the simplest of terms icewine is made from frozen grapes, that’s right frozen. Don’t confuse ice wine with another type of dessert wine called late harvest wine, where the grapes are allowed to rot (Botrytis cinerea) “noble rot” which is used in Tokaji which is a wine I have had and enjoyed.
Icewine or Eiswein in German is made from frozen grapes, as in healthy grapes frozen on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze but the water does which creates a more dense smaller volume of muss, but a more concentrated and sweeter wine. Grapes freeze at -8C or 17F. My freezing temperature is about 50F, so I wouldn’t be much help making this wine. If the freeze doesn’t come soon enough the whole crop can be lost to rot. If too cold, you can’t get enough juice from the grapes because the grapes are too hard to make wine. The cellar workers must work in unheated spaces. Pickers work at night or early morning harvesting grapes. This is why ice wines are usually expensive.
Modern technology can relieve some of this misery. The process is called Cryoextraction. The grapes are harvested and then frozen with refrigeration. The resulting wine looks like ice wine but is called “freeze distillation” but can’t be called icewine.
Icewine isn’t new, the Romans were making wines from frozen grapes around 23 AD, Roman’s did everything with wine except invent a good container! The town of Chiomonte in Italy was a popular wine area in Roman times and they are still making icewine today.
Germany was making icewine in 18th century. The wine was Germany’s most prized style. Wine history shows that until recently sweet wines were more popular that today’s “dry” wines. The problem was Eiswein harvests were rare, only 6 in the 19th century, why? It was too warm! They also had a technological problem, they didn’t have a wine press that could crush frozen grapes. From the 60’s to the 90’s icewine was popular however, in the 2000’s it has become too warm once again for Germany to make a good ice wine.
The new epicenter for icewine is now the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario Canada. This arae is Canada’s most productive viticultural area. On the south shore of Lake Ontario the summers a warm enough to ripen many of the grapes used in wine. The winters are cold enough to freeze them. There are three appellations within the Niagara Peninsula. Lincoln Lakeshore, Creek Shores and the Niagara-on-the Lakes, this is where our wine is from. Niagara-on-the Lake sits along the Niagara river on the eastern ridge of the Peninsula. It is further broken down into sub-appellations the Vinemount Ridge and the Escarpment. The Finger Lakes in New York is also a large producer of Icewine.
I was surprised to learn that Icewine can be make from a number of varietals. Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Baco Noir, Pinot Noir, Gamay Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. But the champ by far is Vidal. Vidal is a hybrid grape a cross between Ugni Blanc and Seibel. It’s main feature is it has a thick skin. It was developed in 1930 by a Frenchman Jean Louis Vidal, who’s goal was to get a grape design for making cognac. Icewine using the Vidal grape can be made in two styles oaked which adds complexity to the wine and unoaked which has a fresh fruit taste.
Let’s drink. Color of the wine is old straw. Wine is clear. I notice the viscosity of the wine was a little thicker than regular wine. Nose is very slight. For me a little foxy with a hint of citrus. I’m getting concerned, for me the nose is one the most enjoyable aspects of drinking wine, this is a disappointment. Taste, our wine it of the oaked style and I don’t know about complexity, but it makes the wine “heavy” which I don’t think is a wine term, but it is how the wine “feels” to me. Taste, I get honey, that’s not bad but I was expecting more fruit, apricots maybe? Felt the wine left me very quickly no finish at all.
Well, maybe I should had stay with first and last as the theme after all this is my first and most likely last Icewine. And that’s how it goes, sometimes the wine is the story, sometimes the story is better than the wine. See you soon in Griffy on Wine.