Skip the dessert and grab a glass of ice wine instead. Also written as icewine, this delicious dessert wine is made from grapes that are frozen while they're still on the vine. The process allows for a more concentrated pressed grape juice that's wonderfully sweet.
By waiting to harvest the grapes until they are frozen, winemakers are able to produce a wine concentration that's much sweeter than normal. While each grape and the water within the grape freeze, the sugars do not, which results in the more concentrated, sugary liquid. The result is a syrupy, sweet treat that's perfect for sharing with friends and family around the holidays.
Who Picks These Grapes Anyway?
Someone with warm gloves, hopefully. Many vineyards hand-harvest these grapes during the coldest time of the day, typically at night. Unlike other dessert wines, ice wine grapes are not affected by noble rot, which is a gray fungus that plagues grapes in moist conditions, destroying entire crops.
Still, producing ice wine comes with its own risks because it all depends on the weather. In some cases, the frost may not come before the grapes rot. Even if the frost is perfectly timed with the crop's ripeness, it still means calling in labor forces at a moment's notice to pick the entire crop within a few hours, usually on a cold morning. Remember, the grapes are picked frozen. Because of this, ice wine is made in small amounts and is typically expensive, but the distinctively sweet flavor profile makes all the risks and effort worth it.
How to Drink It:
Despite the high sugar content, ice wine boasts a high acidity that nicely balances the flavors, making it a refreshing option for wine lovers. It also features a lower alcohol content than most wines. Despite the name, you never want to over-chill an ice wine. An hour or two in the fridge is all it needs before serving. When it's chilled properly, ice wine offers the perfect syrupy consistency on the palate.
Serve ice wine in a regular white wine glass to showcase its exquisite aromas. You can also go the traditional route and pour it into a smaller glass. If you have any leftover ice wine from the evening before, mix it into a wine cocktail to use the rest of the bottle.
Chunky sweaters and rosy cheeks. In all seriousness, this wine can stand up to rich flavors such as foie gras and heavy cheeses. It's also a natural complement to decadent dessert options. The general rule is to serve your ice wine with a dessert that is slightly less sweet or a bit lighter to really highlight the flavors of each. Present guests with ice wine for dessert paired with fresh fruit and cheese or with chocolate. You can also drink ice wine as an apéritif to stimulate the appetite before a meal.