It’s a winter wonder that can only happen once a year, if we’re lucky.
This past week’s below freezing temperatures have made it possible for vineyard Chateau Chantal to begin making a rare treat called ice wine.
“It’s something that very few places in the world can do, they can’t do this in California, they can’t make ice wine,” says Mark Johnson, a Vintner and veteran Wine Maker at Chateau Chantal.
This specialty dessert wine is sweet, rich and often commands a higher price tag.
In addition to this, Michigan is one of just a few places where vineyards can make ice wine. It’s made from frozen grapes left on the vine after traditional harvest.
We tagged along with Wine Maker Brian Hosmer as he made the ice wine and explained to us just how specific the conditions to make it are.
“We try to do it every year, we leave grapes out there and it’s this gamble type of thing where you’re hoping that you get to do it,” says Hosmer. “You can’t do it every year because you don’t always get the appropriate conditions in a timely manner or they happen after the fruits been compromised.”
Ice wine can only be made once a year at most because of the specific conditions needed to make it.
It has to be between thirteen and fifteen degrees for several days and the grapes themselves have to have a certain degree of firmness.
Because the ice grapes are picked frozen they have a higher concentrate. In other words the finished wine is much more sweet and rich.
“It’s more in this honey kind of spectrum where it’s much more dense and more sweet like honey, peaches, and things like that that are interesting to taste that you don’t get from the other grapes,” says Hosmer.
However, this sweet wine is a risky business for vineyards. The profit margin is often small and sometimes a lot of the batch does’t even turn out.
Despite these challenges, Vintner Mark Johnson says, the risk is still worth it, “We believe if you are growing grapes in a cold climate where you have that opportunity to make the best thing you can possibly do, you should do it.”
The entire process of making ice wine takes about six months so you can expect Chateau Chantal’s batch out this spring.