Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Spirit Of Ice Wine

As we all know, December/ January is Ice Wine season here in the Niagara Peninsula especially in the town of Jordan where many local wineries have set up shop for this winter weekend festival allowing the public to sample some of their best wines for only a few tokens. Lots of good food, variety music and fun activities makes the small town of Jordan a hot spot in such a cold season.

Keeping with the spirit of the season I have decided to start with desert.
There is no law that states you must save the best for last.

First off...The basics.
What is Ice Wine? Where did it come from?Ice Wine (or German term Eiswein) is a sweet desert wine that can only be made in cold, Northern hemisphere countries like Canada and Germany. This delicious style wines origin is often debated. Some believe it has been dated back to the 9th century Germany, others are positive it was 12th century Australia.
Regardless, the story I was told is about a farmer who had left the grapes on the vine too long and they had froze. The dedicated farmer decided to continue with the vinification process and later determined that freezing the grapes resulted in producing a natural sweet content. Therefore Ice wine has no added sugars or flavours. Miraculous!
Some different white varietals include Vidal (most common), Riesling and Gewurztraminer. The most popular red varietals are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauv. and Shiraz.
How To: Harvest Ice Wine.
Ice wine grapes must stay on the vine longer than table wine varietals. Desired temperatures of -8 to -14 degrees Celsius are required to ensure the grapes are at their frozen state. Prune state grapes are then hand harvested by workers at the coldest times in the day, usually between 3a.m and 10a.m. The grapes are very delicate at this point which is why they must be hand picked. Sending machines down the rows would be too risky in possible damage to the skins which would overall result in less ice wine produced. By 10a.m when the sun has reached a higher point in the sky the temperature is warmer, this would defrost the frozen grapes.
Usually a crusher/ destemer will be brought right out into the field so the entire process will happen while grapes are frozen.
This is where Ice wine gets its name from, the fact that these grapes are frozen.

Ice wine is best served chilled. Through it in your freezer for 30 minutes or your fridge for about an hour. The great thing about ice wine is that it will last 6 WEEKS once it is open so if you would like to have it in small doses it is A-okay to do so. If left un-open ice wine will last 10 years from the vintage date. For example; If you have a 2005 Vidal Ice wine it should last until 2015 assuming your cellering it appropriately. This means keeping it in a cool dark place like a basement.

Pairings and Recipes
Ice wine is also known as desert wine because ice wine is so sweet that it is best paired with desert.
Personally I could pour the stuff on pancakes and drink it every day with breakfast, lunch and dinner but for those of you with a lesser dominant sweet tooth desert will do just fine.
White ice wine has hints of pear, honey, apricot and caramel so it is best paired with those flavours in a dish. Try it drizzled over vanilla ice cream, a cheese cake or  just enjoy with a fruit and cheese platter.
Red ice wine has hints of strawberry, cranberries and black berries so try it with those frozen fruits in a 2oz glass of the delicious ice wine. As the fruit defrosts the tannins will make the wine seem less sweet. The new trend with red ice wine is to melt down dark chocolate and rim your glass like a margarita. Put your glass in the fridge or freezer so it hardens then pull it out just seconds before you pour your ice wine. This way when you sip on the ice wine the chocolate rim will cut down the sweetness and still give you the flavourful fruits that you will enjoy.
Drink recipes are getting more and more popular for ice wine every year. Use it in a martini to make it a little sweet, or with Champlain to cut the bitter finish. You can google drink recipes if these do not sound appetizing enough for you.

Weather you like or dislike sweets Ice wine is an experience to be had by all.

~I'll Try Anything Once, Twice If I Like It~

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