The presence of the lake is crucial for the cultivation of the vine since its influence is able to soften the otherwise too cold winter climate. At the same time these rigid temperatures allow us to produce a superior quality wine, the so-called Ice Wine.
Ice Wine is perhaps the most absurd wine in the world. The more we think about it, the more it sounds absurd. Imagine a vineyard in which the grapes are left at the mercy of the weather, exposed to all sorts of atmospheric phenomena and victims of winter ice, which literally freezes the grapes. The frozen grapes are later picked and crushed with a very special technique that brings out only the sweetest and most concentrated nectar.
Making iced wine is almost brutal, or so it seems. First of all, the vineyard must be in a climatic zone where the exact climatic conditions exist. Neither too hot nor too cold, neither too early nor too late.
Ice Wine is obtained from grapes harvested late (the harvest of this type of grapes takes place between December and late January) and from frozen grapes due to the effect of night frosts (often the bunches are picked at night) which, once picked, are still pressed and frozen once again. These particular circumstances make it possible to obtain a great concentration of extracts and aromas inside the berries: in fact, ice absorbs part of the water contained in the berries and at the same time protects the grapes themselves.
Ice wines give excellent results if obtained from Riesling or Gewürztraminer grapes: in the first case sweet wines are obtained, but with evident mineral notes, in the second case more aromatic and fragrant wines are obtained and both are sold locally and exported as well.
I was lucky enough to participate in a wine tasting of ice wine at a local winery and the owner himself instructed me on the harvesting and characteristics of these particular grapes knowing I am from Italy and therefore assuming I’m a wine expert.
I’m no expert but I can tell you that ice wine is very good and Canada has nothing to envy Italy although these varietals are very different.
Ontario has obtained the worldwide recognition for the wine obtained from the pressing of frozen grapes and Canadian wine producers finally got the green light to market it in Europe.
The paradox is that the history of the Icewine has European roots, precisely coming from Germany, where it was the local producers who discovered it and started to produce it about two centuries ago.
Not only that: they have also obtained the exclusive use of the term Ice Wine, which will then become the official competitor of Eiswein, written in German and already produced in Germany and Austria.
In the past, this Canadian dessert wine produced at -8 degrees centigrade at least, could not be marketed in Europe because the sugar standards did not fully correspond to the standards set by the European Union but things have changed.
The more the grapes are frozen, the higher the quality of this wine is, which points everything to its sweetness. As the grapes are 80% water, they squeeze the fruit when it is hard as marble means to extract the juice at its maximum concentration of sugar and acidity. The risk for the winemaker is to leave the grapes on the vines in September, October and November, when the birds and adverse weather conditions can damage them.
It is not enough, in fact, to leave the grapes to freeze on the plant. Everything from pruning to harvesting, from mashing to bottling must take place at constant frosting temperatures. It is a lengthy and arduous job and, the only way to stand out in an increasingly fierce market, is to offer an excellent and unique product.