Ice Wine Information

Icewine, or Eiswein, originated in Franconia, Germany in 1794. Grapes were left on the vines until the first deep frost, and the freeze/thaw cycles that occurred concentrated both the sugars and flavors of the grapes. The process was refined, and now icewines are highly prized drinks that are created in Germany, Austria, and Canada. The Niagara region of Ontario, Canada is currently the most widely respected producer of ice wines.

German eiswein is a Qualitätswein and falls under those rules. In Canada, the ice wine is governed by the Vintners Quality Alliance.

VQA Canadian Ice wine, properly created, must follow VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) regulations to ensure a quality product. Key amongst these rules is that the wine must be naturally produced - no artificial freezing allowed. This makes ice wine very difficult to create - grapes must be guarded against too extreme temperatures, and because they are the last grapes on the vines, they must be defended vigorously against birds and other animals.

As in all harvests, the exact moment of harvest is extremely important for ice wine. Ideally the temperature should get to -10°C to -13°C before picking. This provides the optimum level of sugar and flavor in the grapes. This chart shows how sugar varies with the temperature:

Henry Pelham Ice Wine

Sugar Levels


Sugar Content


When the grapes are just right, they're carefully picked by hand. Grapes in this condition have a very low yield - often an entire vine only makes a single bottle. That's why ice wine can be so expensive and is often sold in half-bottles only ... but it's worth it!

Icewine is typically made of Vidal and Riesling grapes. After this long harvest process, the grapes go through weeks of fermentation, followed by a few months of barrel aging.

Ice Wine Glass The wine ends up a golden color, or a deep, rich amber. It has a very sweet (of course) taste. The flavor is a combination of apricot, peach, mango, melon or other sweet fruits. There is often a nutty smell to it as well. It is usually drunk as a dessert wine, chilled for one or two hours. It is usually served in small cordial glasses.

My favorite icewines are all from the Niagara region of Canada. My favorite is probably Iniskillin Icewine but quite a number of them are exceptional up there.

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