What? Well yes…Australia is making ice wine from Chardonnay grapes by using a commercial freezer. If you haven’t yummed-up on frozen grapes, you are missing a sweet treat. During the summer months, frozen table grapes are often on my lunch menu, so why not good quality grapes making a version of the classic ice wine usually associated with Germany and Alsace, with a non-traditional method? For the first time in more than a few vintages, two German estates producing Eiswein had an excellent freeze and a 2012 Eiswein will be reality for them, but not for others.
While Western Australian winemakers have been sweltering in soaring heats, Margaret River winemaker Clive Otto from Fraser Gallop Estate has been working in freezing temperatures to create his own ‘ice wine’.
Traditionally, ice wine is made in the cooler regions of central Europe and Canada from grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine.
Otto is making a similar style of dessert wine by freezing late picked Chardonnay grapes overnight in a commercial freezer at -16C. The fruit, which was at 13.0º baume sugar levels prior to freezing, was then quickly pressed the following morning at a high pressure.
‘We were excited when we inserted a hydrometer into the juice and were getting sugar readings of 17º to 21.5º baume,’ Otto said.
While this ‘ice pressed’ wine has never before been produced in WA, it is not Otto’s first foray into dessert wines, having spent many vintages making Botrytis Riesling and Cane Cut Semillon while at Vasse Felix winery. Read the entire story at Decanter
Also from Australia via Tasmania, Milton Vineyard is using “iced” Riesling grapes to produce a 2011 Iced Riesling:
“Our dessert style wine is made for us at Winemaking Tasmania using our own intensely citrus flavoured Riesling. It is hand-picked at optimum ripeness and the resulting wine is reduced through freezing to make a luscious pure dessert wine which has definite impact with moderate sweetness and a delicate balance. This fruity viscous wine pairs well with fresh fruit and cheeses.
Milton Vineyard suggests their dessert Riesling is nice with a Brie or “delicate” desserts such as “lime pannacotta.”
Tasmania’s average temps in the Cranbrooke area where the winery is located ranges from a high of 74℉ in January to a low of 39℉ in May when harvest is finished or just finishing.
Even in Germany and Alsace, the weather combined with the condition of the grapes isn’t always conducive to making ice wine, but in Canada and New York State, the climate is friendlier to these sweet, luscious wines:
“In Germany, many of the vineyards are also on steep slopes, making an already difficult harvest even trickier and sometimes dangerous. Most of the North American vineyards producing icewine are fairly flat and get cold very reliably each vintage; they’re also generally warmer during the growing season, resulting in richer, higher alcohol icewines than most of their forebears in Europe.
The grapes stay on the vine well into winter, and are harvested at temperatures between 9℉] and 14°F, often in pre-dawn darkness. When pressed, the frozen water particles fall away, leaving a concentrated almost-syrup of sugar, flavor components, and acidity. An icewine harvest can occur as early as November or as late as January. That means there can be two different vintages from the same year, since law requires that the vintage on the label be the year that the grapes were harvested. Sheldrake Point Vineyards, in the Finger Lakes, for example, harvested their Riesling icewine in January 2006 and then again in December that same year…
If you’re staying domestic, New York’s Finger Lakes also produce some notable icewines, largely following the model of their neighbors across the Niagara Falls. Hunt Country has been making Vidal Blanc icewines for over twenty years; also look for Heron Hill and Sheldrake Point’s Riesling icewines.
Washington state is remarkable for some of the grape varieties in their icewines. For example, Kiona makes a Chenin Blanc, and Columbia Crest makes a Semillon—both grapes more associated with noble rot wines. Scot Williams of Kiona says that the former was mostly a matter of opportunity: one small vineyard was planted with Chenin, but was proving less-than-ideal for making a dry wine from the grape there… winter brought new opportunities. As in the Okanagan Valley, the window of opportunity for harvesting the frozen grapes can be rather small, but they managed to make an icewine almost every vintage since they started back in 1987.” Source: Star Chefs
In Germany, December 2012 ushered in a couple of nights dipping to 10℉ to 20℉, with no botrytised grapes, making coveted clean and fresh Eiswein, according to both Schloss Vollrads in the Rheingau and von Winning in the Pfalz. The Mosel wasn’t so lucky in 2012 and unfortunantely January 2013 didn’t provide sufficient freezes anywhere in the country.
I believe Fraser Gallop wines are in the U.S. Not sure about Milton.