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by Fred McMillin
for March 20, 2000

 

A Divine Ice Wine


The Physics of Grape Juice

When grape juice is cooled below freezing, the first solid to form is ice, even if the juice is inside a grape skin. Hence, if the partly-frozen grape is crushed, the solid ice is left behind with the other solids (skin, seeds, etc.), while the juice is highly concentrated. If the juice of the harvested grapes contained say 22% sugar, after partial freezing, the sugar content may be 50% or more. Also, acid content increases, providing a tingly charm to accompany what will become a sweet dessert wine.


The Rest of the Story

King Estate Germany has been the leading producer of ice wine. My son worked in a Frankfurt wine shop and brought me a treasured "Eiswein" some years ago. I've been an aficionado ever since.

Happily, ice wine production has come to North America since then. Canada is the leader, but the U.S.A. is on the way. My panel just tasted one made by Oregon's King Estate. It's our...


Wine of the Day

An Icewine, or "Vin Glacé"
1998 King Estate Vin GlacÚ, Oregon
Varietal—Pinot Gris
Sugar Contents - Juice at harvest time around 30%; wine—13.5%.
Acid Content—King's award-winning dry, table-wine Pinot Gris has a typical acid content of roughly 0.6%. The acid content of this ice wine version is about FORTY PERCENT higher. It balances the sugar beautifully.
Service—I prefer mine at room temperature to not handicap any taste buds with low temperatures. However, most of my tasters enjoy it more between 60 and 65 degees F, say 45 minutes in the frig before pouring. (It's a small, 375 ml. bottle, which cools more rapidly than a standard 750 ml. bottle.)
Food—Light, white cheese slices on bland crackers, pound cake, a delicate lemon flan. Avoid strong, very sweet desserts that will overwhelm the delicate wine flavors.
Contact—Office of Lauren Trent, (800) 884-4441, FAX (541) 942-9867
Price—$18 (375 ml.)


Postscript

At Johns Hopkins University, Dr. G. Hamilton Mowbray conducted research in psychology at the school, and in cold-weather viticulture at home. A record freeze in 1974 partly froze his precious grapes, which he crushed anyhow. The result? Professor Mowbray made America's first ice wine! (Leon Adams, The Wines of America)

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created March 2000

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