How To Make Ice Wine

Ice , also known as Eiswein, is a luxurious and rare type of wine that is highly sought after by wine enthusiasts around the world. Made from grapes that are harvested in the dead of winter, ice wine is a true labor of love that requires precise timing and a lot of patience.

The process of making ice wine begins with the careful selection of grapes. Only certain grape varieties, such as Riesling and Vidal Blanc, are suitable for ice wine production. These grapes need to have a high sugar content and good acidity in order to create a balanced and flavorful wine.

Once the grapes are deemed ready for harvest, they are left on the vine until the temperature drops below freezing. This freezing process is crucial to the production of ice wine, as it helps to concentrate the sugars and flavors in the grapes. The grapes are left on the vine until they are completely frozen solid, which usually occurs in the early hours of the morning.

Harvesting the frozen grapes is a delicate and time-sensitive task. The grapes need to be picked quickly and carefully, as any delay or mishandling can result in the loss of precious . The grapes are often handpicked and placed in small crates to prevent them from thawing too quickly.

Once the grapes have been harvested, they are immediately pressed while still frozen. This pressing process is done slowly and gently to extract the concentrated juice from the frozen grapes. The juice that is extracted is incredibly sweet, with sugar levels ranging from 32 to 46 Brix.

The fermentation process for ice wine is a long and slow one. The high sugar levels in the juice make it difficult for the to convert all of the sugar into , resulting in a sweet and dessert-like wine. Fermentation can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, as the yeast slowly works its magic to convert the sugar into alcohol.

The end result of this painstaking process is a wine that is incredibly sweet and rich in flavor. Ice wines often have notes of tropical fruit, honey, and apricot, making them the perfect accompaniment to desserts or enjoyed on their own as a decadent treat.

Due to the challenging nature of producing ice wine, it is not made every year. The specific conditions required for the harvest, including freezing temperatures and the right grape characteristics, are not always present. As a result, ice wine is a rare and limited product that commands a higher price than most traditional wines.

Ice wine is a unique and extraordinary wine that is made from grapes that are frozen on the vine. The freezing process concentrates the sugars and flavors in the grapes, resulting in a sweet and luscious dessert wine. Producing ice wine is a difficult and time-consuming process, but the end result is a truly exceptional and luxurious wine that is worth every penny.

How Long Does It Take To Make Ice Wine?

Ice wine takes a considerable amount of time to make due to its unique production process. The grapes used for ice wine are left on the vine until they freeze, typically in late autumn or early winter. This freezing concentrates the sugars and flavors in the grapes, resulting in a very sweet and flavorful juice.

Once the grapes are frozen, they are carefully harvested and pressed. The pressing process is slow and gentle to extract only the concentrated juice, leaving behind the frozen in the grapes. This juice is extremely sweet, with a high sugar content ranging from approximately 32 to 46 Brix.

After the pressing, the juice is fermented to convert the sugars into alcohol. However, this fermentation process is slow and finicky due to the high sugar content of the juice. It can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for the fermentation to complete.

During this time, the yeast is working to convert the sugars into alcohol, but the process is slower compared to regular wine fermentation. The high sugar levels can stress the yeast and make it difficult for them to thrive, resulting in a slower and longer fermentation.

The extended fermentation period ensures that all the sugars are fully fermented, leaving behind a balanced and flavorful ice wine. This lengthy process is necessary to achieve the desired taste and quality associated with ice wine.

Making ice wine is a time-consuming process that involves allowing the grapes to freeze on the vine, pressing them to extract the concentrated juice, and fermenting the juice over a period of 3 to 6 months. The result is a sweet and rich dessert wine that is cherished for its complexity and intensity of flavors.

how to make ice wine

Why Is Ice Wine So Expensive?

Ice wine is renowned for its exquisite taste and unique production process, which contributes to its higher price tag compared to traditional wines. Several key factors contribute to the higher cost of ice wine:

1. Climate and Harvesting: Ice wine grapes are harvested in extremely cold temperatures, usually around -8 to -12 degrees Celsius (17.6 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit). This requires leaving the grapes on the vine much longer than usual, risking damage from pests, disease, or birds. The timing is crucial as the grapes must freeze naturally on the vine, and they need to be picked and pressed immediately to maintain their quality.

2. Low Yield: Due to the extended ripening period and the risk of losing grapes to various factors, ice wine grapes have a significantly lower yield compared to regular wine grapes. This low yield means fewer grapes are available for production, increasing the cost per bottle.

3. Hand Harvesting: Harvesting ice wine grapes is a labor-intensive process. Since the grapes freeze on the vine, they cannot be mechanically harvested and require hand-picking. This meticulous and time-consuming process involves skilled laborers carefully selecting the frozen grapes, often working during the night or early morning hours when temperatures are coldest.

4. Pressing: After harvesting, the frozen grapes are pressed to extract the concentrated juice. The pressing process is delicate as the grapes are still frozen, and the juice needs to be extracted slowly to maintain its quality. This slow and careful pressing process requires specialized equipment and adds to the production costs.

5. Concentration and Aging: Ice wine is known for its intense flavors and high sugar content. The freezing process concentrates the sugars, acids, and flavors in the grapes, resulting in a rich and sweet wine. The concentrated juice is then fermented and aged for an extended period, often for several years, to develop its complex flavors and aromas.

6. Limited Availability: Ice wine production is limited to regions with suitable climate conditions, primarily in colder climates like Germany, Canada, and Austria. The smaller production scale and limited availability of ice wine contribute to its higher price.

7. Quality Control: Ice wine production requires strict quality control measures to ensure the grapes are harvested at the optimal freezing point and pressed immediately. This attention to detail and quality control measures add to the overall costs of producing ice wine.

The high cost of ice wine is primarily due to the unique and challenging production process, low grape yield, hand harvesting, delicate pressing, concentration, aging, limited availability, and strict quality control measures. These factors contribute to the exceptional quality and rareness of ice wine, making it a luxury product that comes with a higher price tag.

What Are The Ingredients In Ice Wine?

Ice wine is made from grapes that have gone through a specific process of freezing and harvesting. The main ingredient, of course, is the grape itself. However, there are a few key factors that contribute to the unique flavors and characteristics of ice wine:

1. Grapes: The grapes used for ice wine are typically of the Vitis vinifera variety, which is commonly used for winemaking. The specific grape varietal used can vary, but some common ones include Riesling, Vidal, and Cabernet Franc.

2. Cold Weather: The freezing temperatures are crucial for the production of ice wine. The grapes need to be exposed to temperatures below freezing (around 17°F or -8°C) for an extended period of time. This freeze-thaw cycle helps concentrate the sugars and flavors in the grapes, resulting in a more intense and flavorful wine.

3. Sugar: Ice wine is known for its high sugar content, which is a result of the freezing process. When the grapes freeze, the water inside them crystallizes, leaving behind a concentrated juice that is rich in sugars. This high sugar content gives ice wine its characteristic sweetness.

4. Acidity: Along with the high sugar content, ice wine also typically has a good balance of acidity. The freezing process helps retain the natural acidity of the grapes, which adds a refreshing and crisp element to the wine.

5. Yeast: Yeast is an essential component in the fermentation process of ice wine. After the grapes are pressed, the juice is fermented using specific strains of yeast. This fermentation process converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol, creating the final product.

It's important to note that ice wine production is a highly regulated process, and strict guidelines are in place to ensure quality and authenticity. The ingredients and production methods for ice wine are closely monitored to maintain the integrity of this unique and luxurious wine.

What Is So Special About Ice Wine?

Ice wine is considered to be special for several reasons:

1. Unique production method: Unlike other wines, ice wine is made from grapes that have been left on the vine until they freeze. This is a labor-intensive process as it requires close monitoring of weather conditions to ensure the grapes are picked at the right moment. The grapes must be frozen solid to produce ice wine, which typically happens in colder climates.

2. Concentrated flavors: Freezing the grapes on the vine concentrates the natural sugars and flavors within the grapes. As the water in the grapes freezes, it separates from the sugars and other components, resulting in a more intense and concentrated flavor profile. This is why ice wine is known for its exceptionally sweet taste.

3. High sugar content: Ice wines are known for their high sugar content, often ranging from 100 to 300 grams per liter. This is significantly higher than most other wines, which typically have sugar levels below 10 grams per liter. The high sugar content gives ice wine its distinct sweetness and luscious mouthfeel.

4. Limited production: Due to the specific requirements for making ice wine, including the need for freezing temperatures, the production is limited. This makes ice wine a rare and sought-after wine variety. The limited availability adds to its exclusivity and higher price point compared to other wines.

5. Ideal dessert wine: Ice wine is commonly enjoyed as a dessert wine due to its sweetness and rich flavors. It pairs well with various desserts, such as fruit tarts, creamy desserts, and cheese plates. The sweetness of ice wine can balance out the flavors and provide a delightful contrast to the richness of desserts.

6. Aging potential: Ice wine has excellent aging potential, thanks to its high sugar content and acidity. Properly stored ice wine can develop complex flavors and aromas over time. Some ice wines can age for decades, allowing the flavors to evolve and mature, resulting in a truly exceptional drinking experience.

Ice wine is special because of its unique production method, concentrated flavors, high sugar content, limited production, suitability as a dessert wine, and aging potential. These factors contribute to its distinctiveness and desirability among wine enthusiasts.


Ice wine is a luxurious and unique type of dessert wine that is produced from grapes that are frozen while still on the vine. This freezing process is crucial as it concentrates the sugars in the grapes, resulting in a remarkably sweet and flavorful wine. The production of ice wine is a challenging and time-consuming process, as it requires specific harvesting conditions and a slow fermentation period. Due to these factors, ice wine is more expensive than traditional wines. Its distinct characteristics, such as notes of tropical fruit and honey, make it a sought-after treat for wine enthusiasts. However, the rarity of the necessary conditions for ice wine harvest means that it cannot be produced every year. ice wine is a delicacy that showcases the artistry and patience required to create a truly exceptional wine.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.