What Is Ice Wine And Why Is Michigan ‘Ripe’ For Producing It?
I am no stranger to a good libation every now and then! I'm certainly familiar with Michigan's expansive craft beer industry and our thriving wineries, so how is it that I've never heard of "ice wine"?
Not only am I unfamiliar with ice wine, but I had no idea that Michigan is one of the few states where it actually gets cold enough to produce it-- makes sense! If you've never heard of this decadent Winter dessert wine, here's what you need to know:
What is Ice Wine?
Ice wine is quite literally just that: wine made from frozen grapes. In order to make ice wine conditions must be just right-- not too warm, not too cold. According to the Pure Michigan website,
Harvesting grapes for ice wine must be done when the temperature drops to about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the water in the grapes freezes, but the sugar does not.
But they can't be too cold for too long either! Once the grapes are frozen solid they become unusable. Conversely, if the frozen grapes thaw out they don't yield the super-concentrated elixir needed to make ice wine. Producing this special type of wine is truly a science!
How Is It Made?
Similar to how classic wine is made, it all starts with planting the right grape variety. Common grape varieties used for ice wine include Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc.
The grapes are then left on the vine to freeze. The longer they stay on the vine the more sugar is produced, but that also allows for more opportunity to lose the grapes to due to external factors like critters or weather! It's a risky process.
With our frigid Winters, Michigan is "ripe" for producing ice wine; something not all states are able to do. In fact, vineyards from more temperate climates try to harvest their grapes and then freeze them-- that is not true ice wine!
Where to Find Ice Wine
Both Southwest Michigan and the Traverse City area are known for their award-winning wineries. In our neck of the woods, you'll find ice wine at places like Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville or White Pine Winery in St. Joseph. Up North wineries like Chateau Chantal and Black Star Farms produce award-winning ice wine.
Have you ever tried this super sweet and decadent wine variety?