Sweet wines 3 – Sun-dried or Icewine
November 29, 2016
In the last post we looked at late harvest wines, where the grapes are left longer on the vine so they become very sweet. Today, in the third in our series on sweet wines, we are going to look at two other ways of producing extra-sweet grapes in order to make sweet wine: drying the grapes to make a syrupy style of wine or freezing them to make Icewine.
Sun- or air-dried grapes
In some parts of the world the harvested grapes are hung or laid out on mats either outdoors in the sun or in a well-ventilated winery loft and allowed to partially dry or “raisinise”. During this process, the grapes will start to shrivel, literally like raisins or sultanas, losing water. With less water content, the sugars, flavours and acidity in each grape will become more concentrated. The grapes will become darker in colour and the flavours will change. When the half-dried grapes are pressed to make the wine, there will, of course, be much less juice than if the grapes had not been dried and this juice will be thicker and sticky and more difficult to ferment.
Examples include Vin Santo and Recioto from Italy and Pedro Ximénez and Moscato wines from southern Spain.
Tasting note: Harveys 30-year-old VORS Pedro Xíménez, Jerez, Spain. 16% ABV.
Dark brown in colour, this is a dense, mouth-filling, lusciously sweet fortified wine with aromas and flavours like molasses, figs, liquorice and vanilla.
When to drink it: This wine will hold its own alongside any pudding, however sticky and sweet it is; think sticky toffee pudding.
Icewine or Eiswein
Icewine from Canada and the United States or Eiswein from Germany and Austria is another very special type of wine. The grapes are left until they freeze on the vine and then are picked and pressed quickly, while still frozen, so the water crystals remain in the press and only a very concentrated must passes through to be fermented. Icewine (or Eiswein) usually has pure fruit flavours and aromas and high acidity. Canada also produces sparkling and red icewines.
Tasting note: Heinz Eifel 2014 Eiswein, Rheinhessen, Germany. 9% ABV
Blend of Silvaner and Riesling grapes, hand-picked and pressed while frozen.
This wine was a pale gold colour and showed a touch of petillance (light bubbles). Pronounced aromas of stewed pears and some spicy notes like cinnamon. This wine had purer flavours of pear drops, stewed pears and apples and quince jam with just a hint of minerality. The sweetness and acidity were nicely balanced and the body was much lighter than the other wines in the tasting. This was also the lowest in alcohol.
When to drink it: This wine would pair nicely with a pork-based pâté or an apple-based dessert.
For more information about sweet wines: