Icewine – its origin and secrets

By definition, an Icewine is a dessert wine produced from harvested frozen grape. Icewines are mostly elaborated from white wine but can also be made from red wine and from sparkling wine.

Icewines have a strong sugar concentration. This sugar concentration is possible by separating the frozen water of the juice. Waiting for the right moment for picking the grapes is crucial. Outside temperature must be between – 8 °C and – 12 °C (18-10 °F). A temperature too warm will prevent water to freeze and a temperature too cold will freeze both water and juice. The harvest is done at night and the pressuring is done right after. The fermentation, typical of dessert wines, follows.

The most common varietals used in Icewines are the Vidal in Canada and the Riesling in Germany. White Icewines can also be made of Cabernet Franc, Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Ehrenfelser. Red Icewines can be elaborated from Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

Their relatively expensive prices are due to the labor-intense (night and cold harvest) and risky production process resulting in small quantity of wine.

The first Icewine appeared in the XVIII Century after some winemakers were forced to press frozen grapes due to early freeze. In Canada, it’s in 1972 that a similar situation appeared to a German immigrant of British Columbia. But it’s in 1984 that Inniskillin produced the first Canadian Icewine. That first Icewine was elaborated from Vidal and had the “Eiswein” mention. “Eiswein” come from Germany and “Icewine” is in English. Canada is now the biggest Icewine producer of the world.

Icewine Inniskillin Cabernet Franc vintage 1993 and 2006

Icewine Inniskillin Cabernet Franc vintage 1993 and 2006

See our Icewine list and members reviews

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About the Author

Guy-Jacques Langevin

Co-founder of Vinivino. His passion for wine started for over a decade. Guy-Jacques followed wine teaching courses from sommelier François Chartier and from the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) in addition to attending various wine tasting events. He founded Vinivino with the goal of bringing the wine accessible to everyone.

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