Ice wine is a type of dessert wine that is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine.
The water in the grapes freezes and concentrates the sugars and flavors, resulting in a sweet, intense wine. Ice wine is usually white, but can also be red.
This article will teach you how to serve ice wine, how it was made, and the best foods to pair it with.
How Is Ice Wine Made?
Ice wine is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that begins in the fall when the vintner selects which grapes will be left on the vines till the harsh winter chill hits.
They will be there until the end of December or the start of January until they can freeze for three or four days at below 18 or 19 degrees F (depending on the country of origin).
During this time the vintner waits anxiously for freezing temperatures while defending the hanging grapes from birds and animals that would pluck them off the vine.
The greatest risk is that the freeze never arrives, resulting in a complete loss of the grapes saved to make this delicious and rare wine.
Once the grapes are frozen solid, they are hand-picked from the vines and then pressed while frozen to yield a tiny portion of sweet and concentrated nectar.
The yield for ice wine grapes is about 15% (or less) of what the grapes would have produced if harvested during the initial table wine harvest.
Ice wines are fermented and then matured in the same way as regular dinner wines, though the increased sugar content means that fermentation takes much longer than regular wines.
Ice wine is then bottled in tall, iconic eiswein bottles. The slow, risky process of making ice wine results in rare bottles that are incredibly expensive compared to regular wine.
The most popular grapes used during ice wine manufacturing are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, and Vidal Blanc, depending on the country of origin.
How Do I Store Ice Wine?
When storing your unopened bottle of ice wine, keep it in a cool, dark place like a wine cellar or wine refrigerator.
An unopened bottle of ice wine will retain its quality for up to three years.
Once you’ve opened your bottle of ice wine, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to one week.
To enjoy your ice wine at its best, we recommend consuming it within three days of opening.
How Do I Serve Ice Wine?
To get the most enjoyment from your ice wine, it should be served well-chilled in a white wine glass. A 2-hour chill should be sufficient to cool the wine to serving temperature.
Use a wine aerator to develop the flavors of the wine or swirl it gently in your glass to oxygenate the wine before enjoying it.
When pouring ice wine, tilt your glass and pour slowly down the side so that the wine hits the surface of the glass with minimal splashing.
You should pour just enough so that you have a small pool of wine at the bottom of your glass — usually about an ounce or two. Swirl gently, inhale the aromas, and sip.
Though it is a sweet wine, we recommend serving ice wine as an aperitif, or with fruit desserts, cheeses, or chocolate.
How To Pair Ice Wine
Ice wine is a luxurious wine that can be paired well with many types of desserts and dishes, some of which are surprising!
When mixing ice wine and dessert, the very first principle is that the dessert should not be sweeter than the Ice wine.
If you prefer white ice wine, choose fruit-based desserts. If you do have red ice wine on hand, pair it with dark chocolate and chocolate desserts.
Ice wine pairs very well with fruit, especially stone fruits like peaches and apricots.
If you have a white ice wine, try it with green apples or pears, and if you have a red ice wine, pair it with cherries or strawberries.
When it comes to cheese, the general rule is that ice wine should be sweeter than cheese, so skip the sweetened cheeses and go for fatty, savory varieties.
Try pairing white ice wine with Brie or Camembert, and red ice wine with aged Gouda or Parmesan.
Read our related article on Wine Pairing With Cheesecake! These wines will make your cheesecake taste even better.
Much like cheese, when pairing chocolate and ice wine, you want the ice wine to be sweeter than the chocolate.
Pairing white ice wine with milk chocolate or dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage is ideal.
If you have a red ice wine, try it with chocolate that has a fruity flavor like raspberry or orange.
Whatever pairing you choose, we’re sure you’ll love how delicious and decadent ice wine can be!
For those who like to live life on the luxurious side, ice wine can also be enjoyed with caviar and caviar-based hors d’oeuvres, though it’s best to keep them on the savory side.
Salty caviar pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the ice wine, making for a heavenly combination.
Ice wine can be enjoyed with savory dishes like foie gras, roasted chicken, or pork.
If you’re looking for a unique and delicious pairing, try white ice wine with sushi, or red ice wine with lamb.
No matter how you choose to enjoy it, we hope you’ll love ice wine as much as we do!
Read our related article on What Wine to Serve With Chicken Piccata for more wine and food pairing ideas!
Ice wine pairs particularly well with Asian cuisines, as the sweetness of the wine, balances out the heat and spice of these dishes.
If you have white ice wine, try pairing it with Thai curry or Taiwanese beef noodles.
For those who prefer red Icewine, we recommend trying it with Chinese barbecue pork or Korean braised short ribs.
The Bottom Line
No matter how you choose to enjoy it, Icewine is an exquisite and versatile wine that can be enjoyed in many indulgent ways.