What is Ice Wine?

Photo of author

By: Tom Valenti


Ice wine is one of the most unique and luxurious wines out there, with its sweet, syrupy taste. But do you really know what makes this delicious beverage so special? 

Read on to explore what makes ice wine so unique as well as all aspects of this fascinating drink –  its history, preparation methods, flavor profile, and why it’s become such a popular choice amongst vino connoisseurs across the globe.


What is Ice Wine?

Ice Wine is also called “Eiswein” in German, which translates to “ice wine.” This type of wine is produced from grapes allowed to freeze on the vine before being harvested and pressed. As a result, Ice Wine has a greater concentration of flavor and sweetness when compared to traditional wines that use fresh grapes.

Ice Wine was first developed in the German region of Franconia in the 17th century. Since then, it has been produced in Canada, France, Austria, and the United States, where the climate is cool enough for the grapes to freeze properly.

How is Ice Wine Made?

How is Ice Wine Made

Most ice wines have some similarities in the winemaking process, despite minor variations from region to region. There are three main steps that are generally accepted as necessary for all ice wines, including selecting and harvesting the grapes, pressing and fermentation, and aging.

Selecting and harvesting the grapes

The grapes used to produce ice wine have to be harvested when they are totally frozen to the vine, usually during winter (around December) at extreme temperatures of -20 to -24 degrees Celsius. 

Before harvesting, farmers must take careful precautions to prevent the onset of noble rot or the botrytis cinerea fungus. After that, they must pick clean grapes free from botrytis by hand at midnight and store them at the same temperature as when they were on the vine to prevent spoilage before the pressing process to make it into the wine.

Therefore, this process is challenging for all the farmers and workers.

Pressing and fermentation

The frozen grapes are de-stemmed and pressed while they are still frozen, a process slightly different from pressing fresh grapes. The cold temperatures cause the grape juice to separate from the skins naturally during this stage, resulting in an extremely sweet juice that is then collected into barrels or tanks for fermentation.

Fermenting ice wine is typically slow, taking up to six months due to its high sugar content and low temperatures. This lengthy fermentation period helps the final product’s flavor become rich, sweet, and concentrated.


Once fermentation is complete, the wine is aged for one to three years in barrels or tanks before being bottled. During this time, its flavors will further mature and develop.

What does Ice Wine Taste Like?

What does Ice Wine Taste Like

Ice Wine tends to have a distinct taste profile, with most descriptions leaning towards sweet and syrupy. The sugar content in the wine is usually very high (180-320g per 1 litter). This gives it a strong flavor of honey with subtle hints of stone fruit, such as apricots, peaches, and nectarines, as well as honey and tropical fruits.

It also has higher acidity levels than other wines, giving it a tangy finish. Most ice wines tend to be sweeter than other varieties of wine as well, which is why they are often served after dinner or with dessert.

It usually has an alcohol content of around 10%, which is typically a little lower than traditional table wine. However, some sweeter wines can have an ABV (alcohol by volume) of up to 6%.

Why is Ice Wine Costly?

Generally, ice wine costs more than other types of wine (a normal ice wine costs from $30) due to some reasons.  

Firstly, the process of making ice wine is arduous and labor-intensive. It requires perfect timing for harvest and delivery to the winery, where the grapes need to be pressed immediately. Secondly, it takes a lot more grapes than usual to produce one litre of wine due to its inherent concentration of flavors and sweetness that come from the freezing process.

Another factor contributing to the higher price tag is the exclusivity of ice wine. The climate conditions required for producing it are very specific and not found everywhere, so the quantity of ice wines produced around the world is much lower than that of other varieties. Finally, because it takes longer to ferment and age than other types of wines, winemakers need to wait longer before they can bottle and sell them at a profit. 

These factors together make ice wine expensive compared to other types of wines. However, due to its unique taste, many people are willing to pay the price for a bottle of this special wine. 

How to Drink Ice Wine?

Ice wine is usually served chilled at around 5-10 degrees Celsius. It can be enjoyed independently or paired with lighter desserts such as fruit tarts or mousses.

It is also perfect for pairing with cheeses such as soft white cheese and blue cheese and fresh fruits like apples, apricots, and pears. You can even experiment by serving it with spicier dishes, such as Szechuan cuisine, to bring out the sweetness of this unique wine.

Some Must-Try Ice Wine

Jackson Triggs, Ice Wine Vidal

This Canadian ice wine delightful is perfect for special occasions such as birthdays, outdoor parties, and more. Its low alcohol content and unique flavor make it an ideal choice to bring joy to any celebration.

This sweet drink tastes unparalleled – notes of vanilla, papaya, honey, apricot, and mango. It has a delightful acidity that leads to a smooth finish. Try pairing it with sushi, chocolate brownie, salmon, Thai cuisine, or spicy Chinese noodles for an unforgettable experience.

2012 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Eiswein

This German ice wine has a high residual sugar content of 218 grams per liter. It is made from Riesling grapes that have been harvested during the coldest night of the year.

The taste profile is complex and unique – notes of honey, pineapple, lemon, apricot, and caramelized sugar with an underlying acidity make this wine a delight for ice wine connoisseurs. Pair it with dishes like steak tartare or seared scallops to increase its sweetness and acidity.

1983 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein

This classic German ice wine has stood the test of time. It is made from Riesling grapes harvested in 1983 and has a residual sugar content of 135 grams per liter.

The flavor profile consists of notes such as honey, peach, apricot, and melon with an underlying acidity. The wine also has a long finish that will linger on your palate for minutes after your first sip. Enjoy this vintage iced wine with delicate desserts like crème brulee or poached fruits for a unique experience.


So, What is Ice Wine?  Ice wine is a type of sweet wine made from frozen grapes. It is sweet and rich, with aromas and flavors unique to this type of wine. Ice wines tend to be expensive due to the labor-intensive process of making them and the limited amount produced worldwide.

However, despite its high price tag, many people are willing to pay for a bottle of this special drink due to its unparalleled taste profile and ability to pair perfectly with different dishes. If you’re looking for a luxurious treat, ice wine is worth trying. 

Photo of author

Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

Leave a Comment