Monday, December 20, 2010

Artificial Ice Wine: No Thanks! I'd Rather Freeze

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Bottle of 2006 inniskilin Ice Wine, VQA Niagar...Image via Wikipedia
Enough already!

The latest assault on real food is artificial ice wine. I must declare upfront that I'm not a big fan of sweet wines. However, there is something elegant and special about ice wine.

Ice wine is made from grapes that are allowed to freeze on the vine. Timing is everything with the production of this delicacy. Across Ohio, Michigan and Ontario hearty bands of winery workers and volunteers help harvest the grapes that are used in the production of one of the most expensive dessert wines.

Making ice wine is a risky proposition because a slight variation in temperature can doom an entire crop. If a winemaker is successful, the ice wine is like liquid gold. The wine is typically sold in half bottles and can range from $35 to more than $75.

According to a recent Associated Press story, some winemakers are now harvesting the grapes earlier in the fall and simulating winter conditions in a freezer. This, they say, allows for a lower-priced product and one that is more consistent. Others are aghast.

A good quality Riesling ice wine from New York can cost $75 to $100, while the artificial version would run about $50.

I was surprised to learn that Glenora Wine Cellars, an awesome  Finger Lakes winery, offers an artificial ice wine (for $18). One of the coolest things about ice wine is that some poor soul had to go out at 5 AM into a frozen vineyard and harvest the grapes which then have to be pressed while still frozen. I love the whole terroir aspect of wine. You can actually taste the sun, wind, soil and the care of the winemaker as you sip a glass of wine from a particular area, say Walla Walla Washington. What can you say about artificial ice wine? "Wow, they did an awesome job adjusting the temperature of the freezer?"

This is like an artificial pearl. It might still glimmer, but it doesn't have the same soul as the treasure that is formed through the forces of nature. The natural process allows for variations in the temperature and differences in grapes in the cluster. We're talking about complexity versus a standardized commodity.

Ice wine is also a specialty of our region. If we have to put up with unbearably cold winters and seemingly unending steel-gray skies, at least we can get some recognition and enjoyment from ice wine. I don't want to walk into Giant Eagle one day and see the shelves stocked with mass-produced ice wine from Modesto.
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Anonymous said...

I absolutely love ice wine. I tried it at a wine tasting event at the expo center thinking it would later be an easy find. However, I was sadly mistaken. I was wondering if you could point me in a direction of quality in my area. I am near Cleveland Ohio. Any suggestions would be appreciated, or just the better brand that I might be able to order. Wish I had bought some at that show.

Dave Nershi, CSW said...

A good Canadian icewine, which is widely available, is Jackson-Triggs (about $25). A nice choice from Ohio is the Firelands icewine (about $30).

You also are not very far from Ohio Wine Country in the Geneva area. A number of wineries in that vicinity produce icewine -- in fact they have an icewine festival in March: Debonné Vineyards, Ferrante Winery, Grand River Cellars Winery & Restaurant, Laurello Vineyards and St. Joseph Vineyards.

Debonne, Ferrante and Laurello have wider distribution than most Ohio wineries and you may be able to find their icewine in your wine shop.


Anonymous said...

Thank you that was excellent information. I believe I will be attending the icewine festival in March. Again, much thanks!