Bring the fruity flavors of summer to the winter table.
Among the dozens of types of dessert wines in the world, one ofmy favorites is eiswein, or ice wine. The world's leading producerof ice wine is Canada, followed by Germany and Austria.
Ice wine can be made from many different grapes, though the mostfamous ones are usually made from riesling. In Canada, the vidalblanc grape is also popular. And there are even a few ice winesmade from red grapes, such as cabernet franc. Regardless of thesource, ice wine is produced by letting the grapes hang on the vinelong after the normal harvest, usually well into December orJanuary. By this point, the grapes are superripe and frozen solid.When ice wine grapes are picked-always by hand-each is as hard as afrozen pea. When these grapes are gently crushed, the water theycontain remains behind as ice crystals. All that trickles out is alusciously sweet elixir, an ultrarich juice that will be fermentedinto ice wine.
Because of the concentrated taste, ice wine is one of the mostelegant and refined dessert wines. Its opulent flavors are balancedby crisp acidity. As for flavors, imagine a kaleidoscope ofpeaches, nectarines, apricots, and honey. Because the wine is sointense, a typical serving is just one ounce, so ice wine usuallycomes in 375-milliliter half-bottles. One half-bottle serves 12people-a nice benefit. Ice wine is expensive ($30 or more perhalf-bottle) because of the careful handling required to produceit. Serve ice wine chilled, as you would any other white wine. It'ssweet and rich enough to stand alone as dessert, but if you want toserve it with dessert, choose something simple and not toosweet-biscotti, a simple nut cake, or a fruit tart (try the WhiteChocolate-Cashew Coffee Biscotti). Then sit back and watch everyoneat the table smile with satisfaction.
Ice Wines to Try
Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine nonvintage 2002 fromNiagara Peninsula, Canada ($90): Most ice wines are noteffervescent, so this sparkling version is a special treat. Imaginea burst of bubbly, sublime apricot, nectarine, and peachflavors.
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2002 from Niagara Peninsula,Canada ($80): With a beautiful apricot hue, this fruity wine has arich, silky texture.
Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine2002 from Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($49): Absolutely lusciouswith summery apricot and peach aromas and flavors, and a hint ofviolets.
J.u.H.A.Strub Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Eiswein 2001from Rheinhessen, Germany ($98): This ice wine is plush yet vividlyprecise, with the aroma of flowers followed by an explosion ofapricot flavor.
Dö nnhoff Oberhaü ser Brü cke Riesling Eiswein 2000 from Nahe, Germany ($120): Germanice wines possess delicate elegance. This one has ethereal notes ofpeach and honey.
Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible , the host of the PBS series Wine, Food, and Friends withKaren MacNeil , and the chairperson of the Professional Wine Studies Programat the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California.MacNeil won the 2004 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Wine andSpirits Professional Award.