Icewine

by Augusto Oriani

We are in winter, Christmas day has now passed, I would like to introduce an Eiswein/Icewine wine that represents well in a cold climate.

The eiswein/icewine are special wines, the producers are proud of them, and they leave the consumers amazed, especially those who approach this nectar for the first time. The origins of this wine are unclear, but as often happens, cellar errors and sudden climatic conditions make it possible to create wines of incomparable structure, exclusivity and typicality, so much so as to border on a legend.

The legend tells that the “ice wines” are of German origin, in Würzburg in 1794 an unexpected frost, out of season, caused freezing of the grapes, and the winegrowers, however, carried out the pressing of the now the freezing grapes, obtaining a very sugary and concentrated product, which after slow and long fermentation became the wine that is still known today with the original name of “eiswein” (Germany and Austria), ice wine or icewine in Canada, vino di ghiaccio in Italy, vins de glace in France. You decide, history or legend, but how is it actually produced?

The grapes are left on the vine in the winter frost, usually up to the month of December / January, allowing, with extreme temperatures, to obtain dehydrated berries with a high sugar concentration and substances that actively contribute to giving the finished product a singular sensorial complexity, to sometimes being accentuated by the presence of Botrytis cinerea in the noble version (a fungus that is able to modify the metabolism of the plant thus producing new flavours and aromas).

The harvest of the completely frozen bunches is carried out exclusively by hand, usually started at night when the temperatures are more severe (between -10 ° C and -13 ° C). The grapes are then gently pressed, always at very low temperatures, obtaining small quantities of “juice” and eliminating the “pomace” still frozen.

After about 24 hours of adaptation of the filtered must, selected yeasts are added to start the fermentation which will be slow due to the number of sugars present, will last many days and, at the end of this phase, it is decanted and left for many months in steel tanks or in oak barrels until the right balance between taste and smell is achieved.

The quantities of icewine/eiswein that are obtained from this particular process are really minimal. Just think that to get a 375cl bottle you need from three to four kilos of grapes, therefore, you will have low yields in the vineyard for excellent quality, with a considerable cost, however, justified.

The main producers of this nectar are: Canada, Germany and Austria, moreover small quantities are also produced in Italy, France, and the United States, but it is Canada with dozens of wineries in the province of Ontario and British Columbia, that produce it every year for the particularly cold climate.

The major white berried grapes used to produce it are Vidal (typically Canadian) and Riesling (typical of Germany), then Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Kerner, but in Canada Cabernet Franc is also used from which an icewine with a colour slightly pink is produced. The organoleptic sensations of icewine/eiswein are surprising and naturally change according to the grape variety used and the production area, the delicate aromas of exotic fruit, sweet but not honeyed taste, with the right level of acidity. The one produced with red grape varieties has characteristics that recall the jam of berries, raspberry and strawberry. I would like to conclude with a sentence from the eccentric artist Salvador Dalì:

TRUE CONNOISSEURS DO NOT DRINK WINE: THEY TASTE SECRETS.

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