A small amount of ice wine is made in Washington and Idaho. Some wineries make “ice wine” by picking late-harvest grapes, then freezing them. The resulting wines are not as good as the real thing, although they are generally much less expensive. Changes in laws in 2003 forced wineries that make such wines to label them as something other than ice wine. This allows the consumer to spot a fake and as we know a faux isn‘t always a bad thing. But now when you see “Ice Wine” on the label, you know you’re getting the real thing.
To make a "true" Ice Wine, grapes are left on the vine long after harvest and are picked by hand once temperatures reach a certain level, usually about 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8 Celsius). Its common for wine workers to trudge through snow in the middle of the night to pick the grapes. These frozen grapes are then crushed. Since they are frozen, just a few drops of sweet juice is released and fermented. Because Mother Nature needs to cooperate and it’s hard to make with so little juice coming from the harvested fruit, ice wine tends to be expensive. For these reasons ice wine is often offered in small half-bottles.
The best ice wines are those that retain natural acidity in the face of late harvests. Riesling is one of the finest varieties for ice wine because of its ability to withstand the cold winter temperatures. A few wineries also are experimenting with red ice wines, using Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
(Photo Credits: : Gloves NEngwine, Buckets: Inniskillian)