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The Difference the Spelling of Icewine Can Make!

A visit to Canada’s wine regions will acquaint visitors very quickly as to what makes an Icewine. Canadian winemakers take Icewine very seriously. The VQA sets strict guidelines for producing Icewines. In British Columbia Icewine production is under the Vintners Quality Alliance BC and in Ontario they are overseen by the VQA Ontario.

Some interesting legal aspects of producing a Canadian Icewine include the harvesting of the grapes after they have frozen at -8º C (17.6ºF) for a sustained period. The grapes are not allowed to be frozen in freezers or the like. After harvest, the grapes must be pressed while still frozen. The juice that is pressed out is a very small amount and concentrated while the ice remains behind forming a huge puck ice shape. Icewine is expensive due to the extra hang time in the vineyard, when the ice wine crop can face destruction by birds and other animals, rot and storms. Add to that the high cost of harvesting, usually in the middle of the night, while the temperatures stay cold, and the tiny bit of juice that comes from each grape the resulting bottle of Icewine is easily $60 and up. And that’s for a half bottle. Order an Icewine at a restaurant and it may be $30 or more per glass.

If that seems a bit much, there are other dessert wines on the market. Some winemakers will say that they are not true Icewines or they are fake. Granted that iced wines do not face the rigorous regulations that Icewines do, I don’t believe they should be considered fake. However they should be labeled so that consumers can see the difference. These iced wines are created with grapes that are harvested and then frozen. They then go through much the same process as the true Icewines. Iced wines usually are much less expensive than Icewines.

Is there a difference? People will discover that there is a difference between the two types of wine. Tasters may notice a difference between the two with the Icewine having more layers and nuances of flavor. However if properly made, either one can be delicious! If you enjoy dessert style wines, then try an Icewine and compare it with an iced wine.

Interesting enough in the United States, one can purchase Icewine or iced wines. What do you think of Icewine versus iced wine?

Cheers! Kathy

One Comment

  1. jordan.harris@tarara.com
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I have to say that I won’t be popular here. Iced wines made in a freezer are wines called Ice Wine are fake. It is no different that labelling a Chardonnay Chablis, a fortified red Port, or a sparlking Champagne.

    In all instances there are people that have worked hard to garner the reputation that these names hold and we should embrace that. We could easily call these other dessert wines “Late Harvest” (if they are), a proprietary name, Cryo-Wines (they are Cryo-extracted if frozen in a freezer).

    True Icewines are more vintage dependent and variable then Cryo-Wines since they can be harvested at exact sugars, chaptalized to meet the exact sugars and can be harvested with no “rot” affect of nature. Icewines are left to hang and gain complexity from hanging through the elements and developing extra dehydration, possibly botrytis, and other microbials that in the end add complexity. They also have wildly varied natural sugar contents going from 32.5 Brix (minimum allowed at any harvest, however the average of the must after blending vineyards if done must be over 35) upwards to 50+ brix. This is dependent on the Brix level at the end of the potential ripening period (first frost), size of the berries, when the temperatures allow harvest (it has been as late as March 27th the following year in Ontario in 2001. Thast winter allowed only 4 days total for harvesting Icewine), and the weather leading up and how much dehydration there was.

    True Icewine is also not allowed any of the manipulation other dessert wines can by law. You can not add sugar. The juice is what it is. By having a natural freeze it also allows the grapes to maintain a balance of sugar to acid so it is not needed to do the additions that sometimes give a dis-jointed character to Cryo-wines. With true Icewine there is also a minisule yield that comes from what was once a ton of grapes. Fresh grapes should let out about 150-200 gallons per ton if pressed hard (not recommended) whereas Icewine will only release about 30-50 gallons, hense the price.

    Obviously I have a soft spot for Icewine. Coming from Canada I have had my chance to make it and it sucks. It is long painful work. In the end though you get a product that very few places on the planet can do.

    That said, I now live here in Virginia and I will tell you that in Ontario they can not make Viognier, Syrah, or Petit Manseng like we can. We should be proud of what we can make well where we are and let other areas specialize in what they do well. How many Napa Icewines are there out there. None that I know of because they concentrate on Cabs that they do well. I have tried to make Late Harvest wines three years in a row here at Tarara and only had success in 2010. Every other year they rotted of the vine before they were worth harvesting. Clearly is not something we should put to much mor effort into. I will concentrate on our Viognier and let Icewine be just that, Icewine.

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