Monday, March 19, 2007

Anthony Pierpont Wine Tips: Ice Wine- Friend or Foe?

Ice wine has been gaining a lot of popularity in the US over the last decade. Created from grapes frozen while still on the vine, it’s a dessert wine, and very, very sweet. It’s not a drink to enjoy on an empty stomach or with a large meal.

I kept hearing about ice wines from friends. They’d travel north and return with cases of the stuff. But the first few times I tried to drink the dessert wine, it was a complete turn-off- sticky sweet, yet flat in flavor. I gamely tried it on a few occasions, knowing that if I hung in there, I might find a brand that I liked.

Ice wine is a tricky harvest, because the grapes must sit on the vine long after they’re ripe, waiting for a hard freeze. If the freeze doesn’t happen in time, the winery is stuck with a lot of rotten grapes, making the harvest a tenuous process. Animals and dropped fruit are also dangers vintners face while waiting for a freeze. Frozen grapes have been known to break a traditional wine press, which is really meant to accommodate ripe grapes.

Over time, I found several of the dessert wines that I enjoyed, and two now grace my wine bar:

  • Fiori delle Stelle, Vidal Ice Wine 2003 has a light honey taste that makes it a unique addition to your dessert wine collection.
  • Canada’s Inniskillin winery was voted the New World Winery of the Year by the Wine Enthusiast a few years ago for good reason. Their 2004 Reisling Ice Wine is not to be missed, with lots of sweet peach flavor that makes it a perfect match with a cheese and fruit plate.

Anthony Pierpont Wine Tip of the Day: Beware of fake ice wine brands- there are plenty of these floating around, and I think the wines I tried initially, that were so bad, were fakes. Fake ice wine brands are made with frozen grapes; probably from the local grocery store and most definitely don’t have the taste of a Canadian or German ice wine.