Culinary Arts Phenomenon: Ice Wine

Culinary Arts Phenomenon: Ice Wine

by Olivia DeWolfe
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 15, 2011

Ice wine grapes.When it comes to the culinary arts, one remarkable creation that deserves special recognition is ice wine. This is a uniquely-flavored, sweet-dessert wine that is made in a memorable way.

Because authentic ice wine must be made solely from grapes frozen on the vine under exact conditions, most wineries don't produce it, lending it a rare and special quality. The grapes are usually late-harvest varieties such as Riesling, Vidal, or, as of late, reds like Cabernet Franc. These grapes must be picked and pressed in temperatures between 12 and 17 degrees Fahrenheit, which means the picking usually occurs during the coldest part of the night when the skies are clear, the earth is frozen and there is no snow. It takes many more grapes to produce ice wine than dry wine, meaning that the resulting product is expensive.

In fact, ice wines made in Ontario, Canada can sell for four dollars per ounce and more. Thanks to its ultra-cold winters, Ontario produces more icewine (one word there, according to the Wines and Vines web site) than all the other countries combined--though Austria and Germany are also famous for their "eiswein."

The unique flavor of natural ice wine comes from what happens when grapes freeze, thaw, and refreeze on the vine. The cold water in the grapes stay frozen as crystals, which leaves only concentrated juice behind. As the fruit dehydrates and its sugars and acids intensify, a sweet and complex flavor is created that brings to mind lychee nuts, mango, and peach. Faux ice wine is made from grapes that have been artificially frozen, creating a delicious but far-simpler flavor.

If you're obsessed with wine, you can attend the Annual Niagara Icewine Festival and enjoy some of the best ice wines in the world. Or consider some courses from a traditional or online culinary degree program. You could even attend a culinary school for a sommelier career. Whatever you do, you can learn enough to make you the expert at your next dinner party.



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