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How Do You Make Ice Wine?

Posted on September 29, 2010 by Ed Kraus There have been 2 comment(s)

Ice Wine[Editor's Note: For those of you not familiar, an ice wine is a wine made from the juice of frozen grapes. Most of the water in the grapes is frozen but the sugar is not. When a winery runs them through the grape crusher and grape presses, the result is a very, very sweet grape juice that will make a wine with high alcohol and a lot of flavor.]

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Hi,

I have some lake niagara grapes that I am interested in trying to make an ice wine recipe.  They are in the freezer currently.  Do I make it the same as a grape wine or is there some other step in the process that I have to do?  Any info you can give me would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Mark O.

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Dear Mark,

What you are actually attempting to make is an icebox wine not an ice wine. The difference being, you are using artificial cold to freeze the grapes as opposed to leaving them on the vine and waiting for Mother Nature to do the freezing for you.

To answer your question, there is really not too much difference between making an ice wine and making any other grape wine. The basic steps are the same, except for the fact that you will be putting the grapes through a grape crusher and your grape presses before fermentation. The skins will not be in the fermenter at all. This is because the ice is with the pulp at this point.

The whole goal with ice wines is to get as much sugar out of the grapes while getting as little of the water. Freezing the grapes works out good for this purpose. Water freezes at a higher temperature than sugar does, a phenomenon known as fractional crystallization.

By bringing the grapes down in temperature to around 15F. to 20F. you are freezing mostly water. The grapes are then ran through the grape crusher and pressed as quickly as possible. An extremely sweet juice comes out of the press while the skins, pulp and ice stay in the press and are later discarded.

Having a refractometer to monitor the sugar concentration of the grape juice at this stage would be beneficial. You are looking to get a brix reading of at least 35 degrees. This is the minimal level used by commercial wineries in Canada -- Canada being the biggest produce of ice wine in the world.

I hope this information helps you out. Just remember that it is really no different than how to make white wine, only the grapes are cold and stiff.

Best Wishes,
Customer Service
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.


This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

2 Responses to How Do You Make Ice Wine?

  • Dale O
    Dale O says:

    I am told that a standard hydrometer will not work for Ice wine, is this true?

    Posted on October 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm

  • Ed Kraus
    Ed Kraus says:

    Dale, Our Triple Scale hydrometer has a brix scale that goes up to 40 degrees. This is usually high enough for most armature wine makers, even if they're making an Ice Wine. Let say you're getting juice with a brix of 42 or 43, you can still extrapolate fairly accurately where the reading is on the scale.

    Posted on October 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm

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