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New wine festival shows off Canada's love for riesling
There's a new venue to discover German wines in Toronto. To help Canadians discover new German wines, the 21st edition of the Riesling & Co. World Tour will visit Toronto on May 28, taking place at the Arcadian Loft, 8th Floor, Simpson Tower.
The wine fair is the largest forum for German wines in Canada. It will feature more than 20 celebrated German winemakers and winery principals, a seminar and tasting program entitled "The Unexpected Germany" and more than 100 wines carefully paired with delicious culinary creations. The German Wine Institute, host of the event, expects hundreds of Canadian wine professionals and more than 250 consumers to attend the event.
"Canada is an important market for us and a natural destination for our Riesling & Co. World Tour," said Ulrike Lenhardt of the German Wine Institute. "Hundreds of German wines are released in Canada each year and they're all worth trying. Growth, year over year, for our wine exports leads me to believe that Canadians agree with me. That's one of the reasons why we keep coming back with new promotions and partnerships."
And while most think rieslings when they think German wines, there's more to it. While rieslings make up for 90 percent of Germany's wine market, the country's pinot noirs rival some of the best Burgundies around. Some of the best German wines released this year (and featured at the Riesling & Co. World Tour):
- Wittmann Biodynamic 2011 Riesling Dry(available in Ontario at Vintages stores); retailing at $20.95
- Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Riesling Auslese 2010, will be available at Vintages on May 11, retailing at $29.95
- Spätburgunder G 2010 Pinot Noir by Decanter Magazine's award winning wine producer Meyer-Nakel, is available at LCBO stores and retails for $29.95
- Also by Meyer Nakel is the sublime 2010 Pinot Noir called "Blauschiefer", meaning slue slate, the type of soil the grapes for were grown on. It is currently available at the LCBO and retails for $40.95
To purchase tickets for Riesling & Co. World Tour and meet the German Wine Queen, visit www.germanwinefair.ca.
The Top German Wines You Should Be Drinking
German wine has received some mixed reviews internationally. Most people only know it for its production of Riesling, or its mass-market production of semi-sweet wines such as Liebfraumilch. Stereotypes can stem from the truth but often blanket a wealth of idiosyncrasies that comprise a culture (or, in this case, wine), and which rarely integrate any progression or evolution. French, Spanish, and Italian wines receive most of the accolades and superlatives surrounding the wine industry, and for good reason, but they have pushed German wine to the shadows. It’s time for German wine to take the spotlight, given its excellent aromas, drinkability, and masterful sophistication of grape varieties. White wine makes up two thirds of Germany’s wine production, so expect some stellar weisswein in addition to some bold, hearty reds (this is Germany, after all) on this list of choice nectars.
6 Ice Wines to Try Right Now
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Ice wine is the perfect special occasion glass. Thanks to its syrupy full-bodied consistency and rich liquid-gold hue, the dessert wine is thought of as being deeply indulgent, despite being lower in alcohol than most wines, at around 10% ABV.
Squeezing frozen grapes into small but sweet concentrations is a technique dating as far back as ancient Rome. Germany has called it a homegrown delicacy since the late 18th century, and in North America, the style seems to have caught on in the 1970s, sparked by a German in Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
Once a chance for farmers to save their crops after an unforeseen frost, making ice wine is a dying art. Fewer winemakers are leaving grapes on the vine after harvest, because these days that cold snap can no longer be counted on to come.
In Germany, now the world’s second-largest producer of ice wine after Canada, 2019’s warm winter left an unprecedented situation: All but one harvest failed. “Due to global warming, the chance of harvesting ice wine grapes at minus 7 degrees Celsius [about 19 degrees Fahrenheit] has drastically decreased over the past 10 years,” says Ernst Büscher, a spokesperson for the German Wine Institute.
According to Büscher, ice wines age beautifully and can be kept for decades. And if climate change continues its course, ice wines will become extremely rare or even unavailable if producers are no longer able to make them. It’s already known for being on the expensive side, and prices are rising. So perhaps now’s the time to squirrel away a bottle (or a half-bottle, as ice wines are commonly sold) before it’s too late.
Does low-sugar mean low-calorie?
Not really. With wine, some calories come from sugar, but most come from the alcohol itself.
There’s no such thing as low-calorie alcohol. The higher the percentage of alcohol, the more calories it has. There are formulas to calculate precise levels, but a simple rule of thumb is that an average strength wine (between 12 and 16 percent) has a calorie baseline (just from the alcohol) of about 100-135 calories per five-ounce glass. That’s before you add any sugar calories.
With a dry wine, the added sugar calories are negligible. If, however, you prefer sweeter wines, the extra calories from higher residual sugar levels could start to make a difference to total calorie count. Many off-dry rieslings and gewurztraminers hover around 20 g/L. There’s roughly 50 g/L in most mass-market lambruscos and, even a “dry” lambrusco will often be over 10 g/L, which is roughly similar to the sugar levels found in some, but not all, cava, crémant and champagne.
And then there’s new world rosé, which is often made in a sweeter style than it is in France. When winemakers want to make sweeter wines, they deliberately stop the fermentation process early, before the yeast is done eating the sugar. Where it’s stopped will make a big difference as to sweetness levels and it’s not at all uncommon to find an “off-dry” Canadian pink with sugar levels in the double digits and, a quick search of wines available in Ontario uncovered several in the low-thirties.
Still, at that level, we’re looking at an extra 20 calories per glass and four to five grams of carbs.
That’s a far cry from drinking back a sugary soda, which often contains 100 grams of sugar in a litre. So, the upshot here is that if you’re drinking a glass of wine per day, even a sweet one won’t blow your carb or calorie allowance. (Seto warns, however, that she considers the low-risk drinking guidelines in Canada too generous and warns that a glass a day is likely too much for optimal health.)
Schnitzel, pork steaks and similar meats are often marinated in oil, garlic, herbs and spices. Ideal wine companions are hearty Riesling or Pinot Blanc, as well as dry rosé wines, e. g. based on Pinot Noir.
Beef: If you want to treat your guests to something really special, go for Dry Aged Beef. The dry, well-hung beef matures at constant humidity levels of 60% and – depending on the piece – between 7 and 28 days. Connoisseurs salt the steak about 15 minutes prior to putting it on the grill to get more roast aromas. Then they grill the meat on thoroughly glowing coal for one minute per side, before cooking it on indirect heat until it reaches the desired core temperature. Pepper is only added at the end. A premium piece of meat does not require anything more – apart from a red wine that is its equal in quality, such as a strong Lemberger. This Lemberger should have aged in barrique – for quite some time, ideally – so that its tannins have mellowed.
Fillet of beef or entrecote on the grill are done faster than rib eye. Consequently, they are not as rich in roast aromas. A velvety Pinot Noir is an excellent choice to accompany them.
Along with a lamb cutlet with a Mediterranean seasoning, grilled to crispy perfection, we recommend a hearty Lemberger or Dornfelder, aged in a barrique barrel, if you like.
Poultry – chicken breast, turkey escalope or breast of duck: The tender meat gets a more intense taste on the grill, which goes very well with a dry rosé. In general, rosé wines are great partners for a carefree barbecue enjoyment.
Fish such as trout, char and gilthead are often softer and juicier when grilled wrapped in tin foil rather than directly on the grate. Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Silvaner are perfect companions. A light Riesling from the Moselle with subtle fruitiness is welcome as well.
If the fish is prepared directly on the grate or in a grill tray, maybe even marinated or strongly seasoned, it required a partner such as a stronger Riesling or Chardonnay. A lightly chilled dry red wine can also be an adequate companion for heartily seasoned fish.
Whole fish with herbs can take a juicy Silvaner, which also boats herbal aromas – or even a red wine that is not too full-bodied.
Shellfish such as scampi and prawns are roasted in a grill tray inside their shell, so they don’t lose too much of their juice. All seafood should never be cooked for too long or over too much heat. This kind of seafood likes a fresh Pinot Blanc.
Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau or Pinot Gris are delightful companions for vegetarian and vegan treats. With their subtle aromas, they bring out the best in the vegetables. And – a universal truth – a dry rosé is always a great choice. Vegetables excellently suited for a barbecue are eggplant or oyster mushrooms, served on a plate with hummus or tzatziki. Vegetable skewers – for instance with cherry tomatoes, chunks of zucchini, stripes of bell pepper and tofu – are delicious as well.
And for those who prefer an Asian-style barbecue, we recommend a semi-dry Riesling. You can even try a sweet Riesling if things get really hot, because the wine’s sweetness will soften the spiciness of the food.
White Wines of Germany
In 2013, white wines made up 64.5% of the total vineyard area of Germany. Riesling is Germany’s most important grape but there are some other fascinating esoteric whites to know. Statistics from Deutscheweine.de
This is a very exciting time for Riesling in Germany. In the past, there was a predominance of sweet Riesling wines in the market, but now with changing tastes, we’ve seen a great deal of Germany’s finest wineries producing more dry Riesling. Not that German’s sweet Riesling isn’t great, in fact one of the most prized collector’s white wines in the world is a tiny half-bottle of Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA–the sweetest style of them all) that comes from noble rot grapes grown in the Mosel Valley. Since Riesling has some of the highest acidity (of the popular wine varieties) the sweetness never comes across too cloying.
Finding Great German Riesling
Riesling grows throughout Germany and each of the 13 Anbaugebiete (Mosel, Pfalz, etc) produces a slightly different expression. Once you learn how these wines are classified, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
Wine Learning Accessories
No matter your wine knowledge, we've got the accessories to improve your wine journey.
- German Riesling Classifications Learn about the different quality levels of German Riesling and the terms used to describe the different sweetness (ripeness) levels.
- Regions To Know If you start with just 3 regions, start with the Mosel, Rheingau and Pfalz as the extremes of what German Riesling has to offer.
- The VDP An invite-only association of around 200 estate wineries across Germany. The focus of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats) is exceptional quality estate wines. This is a great place to start looking for high quality German wine. You can find out more about member wineries on their website www.vdp.de
Müller-Thurgau is Germany’s everyday wine. The grape is cross between Riesling and a table grape called Madeleine Royale. The goal of the crossing was to create a wine that had the delightful taste of Riesling, but was easier to grow in colder areas. For this reason, Müller-Thurgau hasn’t ever achieved the same status as Riesling, but it’s actually quite delightful when done well. You’ll find most Müller-Thurgau to be more full-bodied than Riesling and the floral aromatics of the wine make is taste sweet even when it’s trocken (dry). The best examples balance unctuous peach-like sweetness with crunchy green phenolic bitterness (that is sometimes reminiscent of rhubarb).
Finding Great Müller-Thurgau
You won’t find many professional ratings for Müller-Thurgau because these wines are still quite under-appreciated. So instead, you’ll want to dig for some intel on where the M-T was grown to get an indication of its quality. As it happens, there are a few spots in Germany that make yummy examples:
Grauburgunder Pinot Gris and Weissburgunder Pinot Blanc
Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder (Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc) seem to be delightfully more floral and stone-fruit-driven in Germany than compared to Italian Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. Perhaps this is because winemaking in Germany has for centuries focused on purity of fruit whereas Italians love structure. Between the two varieties, German Pinot Blanc often lacks complexity when compared side-by-side to Germany Pinot Gris, which offers oodles of unctuous peachy texture from the color development in the Pinot Gris’ skins. Overall, both wines come across as much less severe than Riesling, with softer acidity and more stone-fruit flavors at their core.
Finding Great Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder
The Pinot varieties tend to like slightly more sunny growing regions in Germany, so you’ll find them produced in warmer regions like Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Baden.
Silvaner is definitely one of Germany’s great undiscovered white wines. The grape is very difficult to grow and produce, but after our most recent trip to the region we were surprised by the overall quality of the wines. Because it’s so unpopular and unknown about, even world-class Riesling producers sell their Silvaner for next to nothing. Silvaner has both peachy and passion fruit flavors along with an herbaceous thyme-like note, not unlike Grüner Veltliner. On the palate, Silvaner wines often has an oily texture that’s complimented with crisp acidity.
The question on finding Silvaner is really a question of whether you can find any at all. Despite the fact that this wine is the 4th most planted white wine of Germany, it manages to be quite elusive outside of the country. Still, there are many great producers from the Rheinhessen and Franken being imported to the states. After a quick search on Wine-Searcher of for both Rheinhessen and Franken, we were delighted to see many options under $20.
Others of Interest
- Kerner Another child of Riesling, this time crossed with Schiava (aka Trollinger, a red) and it produces a lean, minerally and savory white wine with subtle notes of apricot skins and almond. Unfortunately, you won’t find much German Kerner, the majority exported internationally comes from the Alpine region of Alto Adige in Italy.
- Scheurebe A underloved white wine that makes exotic, rich sweet white wines with subtle notes of leechie and grapes with spicy notes of cinnamon and clove. This wine is making a comeback in Germany, and will hopefully pop up more in the states.
- Chardonnay German Sekt is about to give Champagne a run for its money as Chardonnay plantings in Germany continue to increase. This grape performs as well in Germany as it does in Bourgogne, France.
- Sauvignon Blanc Another grape that’s rapidly growing in popularity with German drinkers. German Sauvignon Blanc is grassy and lithe, much like Sancerre. This is another one to watch for, even if most is drunk within Germany.
- Gutedel (aka Chasselas) Another Alpine variety that also grows well in Savoie and Switzerland comes across with much more rich melon-like flavors and a herbaceous minty note in Germany’s terroir.
NOTE: The 2015 Vintage is Dope!
We’ve talked about it before, but now is the perfect time to start looking for the 2015 vintage in Germany. This was an absolutely stupendous vintage for white wines (of all kinds) and a great year to taste the true potential of this region. Stock up!
Best Red: Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon
What’s better than a warming glass of full-bodied cabernet sauvignon? This big-boned bottle oozes with flavors of black currants, meaty cherries, milk chocolate, blackberry skin, and sweet baking spice. Silky tannins and soft acid lead to a dry, palate-coating finish. This wine has less than 0.5% ABV. Sip with juicy steaks or hearty lentil stews and let the good times roll.
Nothing starts an evening off more glamorously than a good bottle of sparkling wine. Modeled after the world-renowned Champagne district’s production of bubbly in nearby France, German sparkling wine is known as sekt, and is native to the Mosel region of Germany. The thin strip of land bordering the Mosel River in Western Germany produces primarily the riesling grape, the base of German sekt, and in fact, the base of most German wine.
Sekt is dry, crisp and has floral overtones. A bottle of sekt labeled “brut” will pucker the lips more than one marked “dry,” and both are available in the United States. Prices range from around $15 to $25 for a bottle.
A German sekt pairs with spicy foods. Sip with a curry-based appetizer, Indian samosas, Thai skewers or a Mexican guacamole flavored with Hatch chilies, all of which complement the dryness of the sekt, with the lingering bubbles merrily bouncing down the throat.
West German Wines of ➆ Yield Surprises in the Top Tier
WEST GERMAN bottlings from the 1986 vintage, which are arriving across the United States, are workmanlike wines for all seasons.
Nature designed many of these utilitarian, rarely stellar but moderately priced white wines for current drinking and perhaps short-term aging. And while consumers uncork the 86's, the more interesting and crisper 85's will evolve further.
An enormous but not wholly representative sampling of the 86's, made primarily from riesling grapes, was showcased last week by the German Wine Information Bureau in New York City.
The special appeal of German wines lies in the singular personality of rieslings, which at best perfectly balance flowery, spicy and fruity flavors redolent of apricots, peaches and pears with a refreshing palate-cleansing acidity. They tend to be low in alcohol, 8 to 10 percent by volume.
The bureau's staff chilled 113 bottles: 108 whites and 5 light reds. A moderately paced sampling of all 113 took four hours, with brief rests to combat palate fatigue. Nearly half the 113 were premium wines - the upper tier of quality as defined by the national wine law.
That tier is designated Qualitatswein mit Pradikat - quality wine with special attributes - and its wines are called pradikats by English-speaking fanciers. There were almost no peaks of heady, ethereal pleasure of the kind yielded by such great vintages as ❱, ❶ and ➃.
Wines from 5 of the 11 wine districts - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinpfalz and Rhinehessen - dominated the tasting. Only five from Baden and Wurttemberg, which are rarely found in America, were poured.
In ➆, mercurial weather across West Germany, Europe's northernmost winegrowing country, yielded mostly kabinett, which are light, relatively dry wines made from the first fully ripened fruit. The weather limited the quantity of more complex, somewhat sweeter and bigger-bodied spatlese (late-harvest) wines and ausleses (from selected, still-riper bunches).
The number of far richer dessert wines was negligible. In ascending order of sweetness, they are known as beerenauslese (made from selected grapes) eiswein (ice wine, made from overripe grapes picked and pressed when frozen solid), and trockenbeerenauslese (made from dried, shriveled, individually selected grapes).
Of 39 importers and brokers in 11 states invited to send their wares, 17 responded. Lamar Elmore, the executive director of the bureau, said many wines could not included because they had not arrived in the United States.
Because of the softness of the market for German wines, some importers have not yet bought 86's. During the first 11 months of 1987, imports of German wines were 26 percent lower than the same period in 1986, according to Frank C. Walters, the director of research for Impact, a trade publication.
Numerous wines displayed were vinified by high-volume exporters. Many from big producers - especially the Weinkellerei Weber, whose wines are imported by Monsieur Henri, and the Weinkellerei Leonard Kreusch - were abysmal.
Too few wines came from small estates, which tend to take pains with every phase of the grape-growing and wine-making process. Some estate 86's are not yet bottled and others have not been shipped.
By far, the zippiest, most intricate wines were supplied by Terry Theise of the Washington Wholesale Liquor Company. This 34-year-old importer in the nation's capital scours West Germany seeking first-rate producers and vineyards that often are unknown in the United States.
The good news is that Mr. Theise's exemplary estate-wine selections, if widely available and properly appreciated on the East Coast, could help spark a rebirth of interest in the genre.
The bad news for New Yorkers is that his 86's are not sold here. ''It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to sell my wines in New York,'' Mr. Theise said. But they can be found in Washington at Mayflower Wines and Spirits at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Md., and at the Creston Liquor Mart in Wilmington, Del.
Mr. Theise's 85's are available at Goldstar Wines and Liquors in Forest Hills, Queens. His 85's and 86's can be found at the Village Corner in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Liquor Mart in Boulder, Colo.
Of the 113 wines tasted, I would buy more than a third. Some of them are listed below.
The German Wine Information Bureau (212-213-7028) can provide importers' names. The bureau, at 79 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016, is run by Manning, Selvage & Lee, a public relations concern under contract to the West German wine industry. Kabinetts: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Urziger Wurzgarten, halbtrocken (half dry), from Weingut Geschw.
Albertz-Erben ($6.99). Bernkastler Badstube, Weingut Selbach-Oster (a lovely wine, $7.99). Berncasteler Doctor, Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch (an unduly costly $29.50). Graacher Domprobst, Weingut Willi Schaefer ($6.99). Wehlener Klosterberg, Weingut Selbach-Oster ($7.99). Zeltinger Himmelreich, Weingut Selbach-Oster ($7.99). Brauneberger Juffer, Weingut Christian Karp-Schreiber ($7.99). Koberner Uhlan, Freiherr von Schleinitz'sche Weinsgutsverwaltung ($6.99). Kabinett: Nahe Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen, Weingut Petri-Ekling ($6.49). Kabinetts: Rheinpfalz Goldener Oktober Deidesheimer Hofstuck, St. Ursula Weinkellerei ($6). Ruppertsberger Hofstuck, Weingut Motzenbacker ($5.99). Spatleses: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Koberner Uhlan, Freiherr von Schleinitz'sche Weingutsverwaltung (a choice buy at $8.99). Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay, Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch ($8.95). Brauneberger Juffer, Weingut Karp-Schreiber ($9.99). Erdener Treppchen, Weingut Geschw. Albertz-Erben ($8.49). Spatleses: Rheinhessen Niersteiner Hipping and Niersteiner Rehbach, both from J.u.H.A. Strub ($6.99 and $7.99 respectively).Spatlese: Rheinpfalz Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker dry, Gutsverwaltung Geheim-Rat Wegeler-Deinhard ($10.49). Ausleses: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Uerziger Wurzgarten, Joh. Jos.
Christoffel Erben ($14.99). Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr, Weingut Christian Karp-Schreiber ($14.99). Ausleses: Rheinhessen Bereich Nierstein, Jakob Demmer Weinkellerei (a bargain at $5.99). Binger Scharlachberg, Kommerzienat R.A. Ohler'sches Weingut ($7.99 for a half-bottle).
In addition to the pradikat wines, which I would buy first, I would turn to a category known as Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (Quality Wine from a Designated Region) for some outstanding buys. These Q.b.A.'s are a cut or two in quality below the pradikat wines.
Among these, in no particular order, I preferred the Ockfener Geisberg halbtrocken from Weingut Gebert, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer ($5.35) Rheingau riesling grunsilber Charta from Schloss Vollrads ($12) Kreuznacher Hofgarten, semidry, Anheuser & Fehrs, Nahe ($6.50 a liter) Bereich Bernkastel, H. Sichel Sohne, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer ($4.29), and the Bishop of Riesling Bereich Bernkastel, Rudolf Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer ($4.95).
I also favored these Q.b.A.'s: Mariengold Liebfrauenmilch from Rudolf Muller ($3.65) Norheimer Kircheneck, Weingut Jakob Schneider, Nahe ($6.99) Oberhauser Brucke, Herm. Donnhoff Weingut, Nahe ($6.99), and Forster Bischofsgarten, Weingut Dr. Burklin-Wolf, Rheinpfalz ($6.99 a liter).
Although I usually dislike sekt -German sparkling wine - a pleasant extra-dry version made by Rudolf Muller in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer ($7.75) was fresh and a tad pineapple-like.
A deep gold, ambrosial Gau-Odernheimer Petersberg, made from a rare hybrid grape called the Ortega, was hypnotizing. Produced by the Weingut Krug'scher Hof in the Rheinhessen, it costs $18.75 for a half-bottle and is worth every penny. In heaven, where noshers are served Sauternes as a predinner aperitif, this trockenbeerenauslese surely must be the dessert wine.
8 Great Ice Wines To Warm Your Winter
Ice wine might (rightfully) terrify. That sleek little bottle. The higher price tag. The legend of lurking sweetness. But if you’re avoiding ice wine out of intimidation, financial or saccharine, avoid no longer. It’s time to bask in the balanced sweetness of this seasonal viticultural miracle.
Or accident, depending on what you believe of history (legend has it a German winemaker accidentally let his vineyard freeze over a couple hundred years ago and decided to make wine with the frozen grapes). However it began, ice wine is now part of the global viticultural cannon, produced in Germany and Austria as well as Canada, New York’s Finger Lakes region, and even Michigan.
The majority of ice wine produced in the world comes from the great national icebox that is Canada. And that’s no surprise, since ice wine depends on consistent, reliably cold temps (not too cold, a sort of Goldie Locks “just right” kind of frozen). In fact, Germany and Austria may actually skip ice wine season if the winter doesn’t seem like it’ll be cold enough, and that’s because grapes need to reach about 17 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, most of the water will crystallize out, leaving maybe a tenth of the liquid with all the concentrated sweetness, acidity, and flavor. Basically grape “super juice.”
To ensure ice wine ends up with balance, it’s typically made with higher acid, fragrant grapes. You’ll see a lot of Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Sylvaner and Vidal Blanc ice wines, though other grapes can be used. The goal isn’t a sugar or alcohol bomb. Most ice wines are lighter than you’d expect, with a pure, very often “honeyed” freshness, a range of florals and stone or berry fruit notes, and surprising acidity. ABVs don’t tend to top 12% or so, and can go as low as 7 %, meaning this is an easy after-dinner sipper.
Not as easy on the wallet, no. Ice wines start at $25 or so (and prices go up quickly). And they sell in 375 mL bottles, not the typical 750 mL wine bottle that guarantees four glasses. But bear in mind the winemaker takes a lot of risk leaving his grapes on the vine* to freeze—birds, hail, and rot are all enemies of ice wine. And then there’s the low yield of the juice itself. Oh, and before you fill your glass to the brim, ice wine is typically consumed in a two-ounce pour, or half the typical wine pour.
*In the U.S., Canada, Austria, and Germany, those wineries can’t legally call their product “ice wine,” which is why you’ll see names like “iced wine” and “icebox wine.” Not necessarily a worse product, but remember, time on the vine is time to develop character.
Weingut Markus Huber 2012 Berg Riesling Eiswein
Eiswein doesn’t take up much turf on the Austrian winemaking landscape, but what it produces can be ridiculously good, like this bustingly-ripe pick from Markus Huber. Nectar-level honey but still fresh tasting, with fruit to spare. A splurge, but also capable of aging for at least a couple of years.
Peller Estates Signature Series 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine – BEST SPLURGE
This one’s definitely a splurge, but if you consider that each grape (supposedly) yields but one drop of sugary-sweet juice, you might get why. Made with Cabernet Franc, with an interplay of complex red fruits and even some supple tannins (10% of the wine is aged in French oak). Round red flavors, at once bright and brambly.
2007 Hunt County Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
With higher levels of acidity and sugar, ice wine is typically a good candidate for aging. Over time, brighter notes tend to recede and let a slightly richer, deeper character come out, as with this bottle from 2007—darker than a young ice wine, with notes of raisin intermingling with the more traditional apricot and lighter, honeyed fruits.
Casa Larga 2008 Cabernet Franc Ice Wine
Another slightly aged ice wine, this one made from Cab Franc, with intermingling sweet and dry red fruit flavors (think cherry, strawberry, cranberry, pomegranate). There’s less forward sweetness, tamed a bit by age, allowing the fruit to softly play a lead role.
2012 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Eiswein – BEST BUDGET BUY
This bottle’s an easy “yes.” Priced close to $35, and you’ll still get the sleek, fresh liveliness of an Austrian eiswein with developed complexity of fruit—here, stone fruit, dried apricot, and some light raisin notes, all balanced by acidity and a Grüner pepperiness.
Inniskillin Gold Oak Aged Vidal Icewine 2008
With its thick skin and natural acidity, Vidal Blanc rightfully dominates the Ontario ice wine scene. If you can find a bottle like this at around $40 or so, snatch it up. You’ll get tropical fruit layered over silky sweetness, balanced by the less common (in icewine) oak aging.
Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Reserve Vidal Icewine
If you want to sample some really good ice wine, you can buy this one in 187 mL sizes. But go for the bigger bottle and you’ll get twice as much golden, tropical fruit, pure honey, and florals lingering over a long, luxurious finish.
Dr. Loosen 2012 Riesling Eiswein
Germany—where eiswein started—tends to put out a slightly subtler product than Austria, complex and surprisingly gentle. This offering from the Mosel region seeps with lush light honey and apple as well as florals and the bright, pure freshness you’ve (by now) come to expect out of your eiswein (and ice wine).