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The Icewine Cometh
by Darryl Roberts
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.2
How’s it goin’, eh? This is my version of what icewine is.

Okay. Icewine's roots date back to 1794 in Germany, where it’s called eiswein. It’s a wine made, essentially, from frozen grapes, eh. German law dictates that eiswein can only be made from grapes with a sugar content of 28 degrees Brix (120 degrees Oechsle) in the unfrozen state and from fruit harvested before January 6. Bunch of hozers, eh? In Canada, the laws are a bit more strict. Oh. The Vintners Quality Alliance, which regulates and controls Canada’s quality standards, mandates that icewines (from Canada, eh.) reach a minimum sugar content of 32 degrees Brix (132 Oechsle) in the unfrozen state and must be the product of grapes harvested at minus seven or more degrees Celsius. Okay. (Grapes with higher sugar content freeze at lower temperatures, eh? Icewine grapes usually freeze around minus nine to minus 10 degrees Celsius.)

How do sugars get this high? Beer. No, just kiddin’. When grapes freeze on the vine, eh, the water inside them crystallizes. So like it becomes ice, eh? Got a lot of that up here, eh? So when the grapes are pressed -- which sometimes takes several days, not to mention a kegger -- the water, now ice, stays behind with the skins and seeds. Thus there’s a higher concentration of sugar, eh, (as high as 50 degrees Brix -- 220 degrees Oechsle) and acids (that’ll keep the finished product in balance) in the juice... and no beer left.

Fermentation, that’s like when the sugar is turned into alcohol -- my favorite part -- of icewine is slow, eh, and sometimes takes as long as seven months to complete. The process is usually stopped when the alcohol content reaches 12 percent, leaving a high percentage of sugar in the finished wine. Sweet, eh? A typical icewine may have 12 percent alcohol and 20 percent sugar (200 grams). That’s a lot, eh?

There are generally two kinds of icewines made in Canada: those made from vidal, which is a hybrid grape, eh, and those made from riesling. That’s the traditional eiswein vinifera grape used by those hozers in Germany. Both can produce exceptional wines, eh? However, more recently, producers here in the great white north have been playing around with grapes like chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, chardonnay and even cabernet sauvignon as alternatives. Pretty cool, eh?

I gotta go, eh?

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