Skip to content Skip to footer

Ice Wine, You’re So Fine


Welcome to the wonderful world of ice wine, one of the sweetest mistakes nature has ever made.

It’s hard to know how anyone would ever purposefully make ice wine. It might not look like it, but true ice wine is one of the hardest, most misery-stricken wines to produce. Just imagine yourself outside in sub-zero temperatures, in the dark, in the middle of a mid-west winter (or on a steep hill in Germany), trying to harvest grapes.

There is no doubt that ice wine is one of the wine treasures of the world.

It’s one of those wines some pretend to hate. After all, it has almost double the sweetness of Coca-Cola. Once you taste a decent ice wine, though, it really is hard to despise the wonderful gift that a marriage of grapes and a cold climate can create.

Ice Wine, You’re So Fine


A Lil’ History

It’s been supposed that in Franken, Germany, during a particularly cold winter in 1794, winemakers wereforced to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The resulting wines from that vintage had an amazingly high sugar content, along with great flavor. Thus, the technique became popularized in Germany. By the mid-1800s, the Rheingau region was making what the Germans called eiswein.

Making Ice Wine

The secret to ice wine is processing frozen grapes at around 20 ºF (-7º C). The frozen grapes are brought into the winery where they are transferred–thousands of hard, icy marbles–into a grape crusher and then into a grape press. Many heritage grape presses have broken under the pressure of attempting to press the concentrated grape sugar syrup out of frozen grapes. Only about 10–20% of the liquid in these frozen grapes is used for ice wine and because the juice is so sweet (anywherfrom ~32–46 Brix), it can take anywhere from 3–6 months–a long, slow, finicky fermentation–to make ice wine. When it’s all done, wines have around 10% ABV and a range of sweetness from around 160–220 g/L of RS.


Cool climate wine varieties used to make ice wine include Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and Vidal Blanc (a French Hybrid variety).

Grapes Used To Produce Ice Wine

The grapes that grow well in cold climates make the best ice wines and these include: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, and Vidal Blanc. Cabernet Franc ice wines are rare, with a brilliant orange-ruby hue, but can be found with relative ease from Ontario, Canada.


Grapes must be picked frozen from the vine to be called a true ice wine. Vineyards in Michigan by Andrew McFarlane

True Ice Wine

True ice wine requires a cold climate where grapes are harvested frozen on the vine. Fortunately, in Canada, Germany, Austria, and the US, dessert wines are not allowed to be labeled as ice wine if grapes are commercially frozen. You will see these products usually labeled as “iced wine” or simply “dessert wine.” So, if you’re looking for true ice wine, be a wary shopper and read the labels or look up the production information.

Pairing Food With Ice Wine

As ice wine is a dessert wine with explosive fruit flavors and on the high-sweetness end of the spectrum, you’ll want to pair it with somewhat subtle desserts containing enough fat to balance the taste profile. If you prefer more savory, late night snacks, a great pairing option with ice wine would be softer cheeses.

A few desserts that pair well with ice wine: cheesecake, vanilla pound cake, ice cream, coconut ice cream, fresh fruit panna cotta, and white chocolate mousse.


By: Madeline Puckette

***Grabbed from: