Right now, we are in the throes of ice wine season. If you don't know what ice wine is, it's wine that is made with grapes that were frozen on the stem. Around the colder parts of the world, grapes are undergoing a first frost — and are fermented without a single drop of noble rot.
The resulting bottles are super sweet dessert wines that have a unique flavor and unique pairings. In order to fully enjoy this rare, expensive form of wine, you will need to know how to drink ice wine in a way that brings out its maximum flavor.
According to sommeliers and other wine aficionados, here's how to serve, pair, and present ice wine properly.
How to Drink Ice Wine: Serving and Prep
Much like any other kind of wine, there is an optimal wine serving temperature that most sommeliers suggest. While this isn't a mandatory part of serving ice wine, most people agree that it helps bring out the flavors of the wine in a way that makes it refreshing rather than overpowering.
Ideally, you will serve ice wine at around 10 to 12 degrees Celsius. This means that you should leave ice wine to chill in your fridge for one to two hours prior to serving to bring out the optimal taste.
Like any other wine, serving is also an art. Ice wine is traditionally served in smaller glasses that are similar to champagne flutes in size. However, if you don't have specialty ice wine glasses, you can also serve ice wine in standard white wine glasses, too.
Flavors as complex as ice wine often require a little bit of aeration in order to fully unlock them. It's not good for ice wine to sit in its glas untouched, before sipping.
Most of the time, swirling your glass will give you enough air to get the flavors loose. We suggest using an aerator to oxygenate the wine while you pour it, unless the ice wine is a sparkling ice wine. Then, the bubbles will often do the work for you.
Then, just taste the wine like a sommelier — swirl, sniff, drink!
How to Drink Ice Wine: Pairings
Though we could have just talked about the traditional serving method used for ice wine, the truth is that this article wouldn't be complete. Part of learning how to drink ice wine is learning how to pair this incredibly sweet wine with food.
The first thing you should learn about ice wine pairing is that this is not a wine that pairs well with "dinner" food. Most experts agree that ice wine doesn't do well as a side to a main course. Rather, it's best enjoyed as a dessert wine, or as a wine as part of a wine tasting party menu.
There are certain things that ice wine pairs phenomenally well with, and in many cases, they are foods that can be very difficult to pair with any form of dessert wine. These are what experts suggest to be the best pairings for ice wine:
- Fruit desserts. This is the go-to serving accompaniment for ice wine, and it is that way for a reason. It works well.
- Goose liver pate. Foie gras and other very thick meat spreads tend to pair very well with ice wine — often surprisingly so. There's something about the savory-sweet combo that makes it incredible for advanced palates.
- Milk chocolate. Red ice wines tend to pair remarkably well with rich milk chocolate, as well as white chocolate. Sommeliers agree that this is one of the most chocolate-friendly wines you can choose for pairings.
- Blue cheeses. Who would have thought, right? Ice wine tends to pair very well with pungent blue cheeses. Gorgonzola and roquefort tend to work wonderfully with ice wine. So, if you're learning how to drink ice wine and eat cheese, these are good options to choose.
- Hard cheeses. For some reason, the sharp flavor of the cheese tends to work well with the rich sweetness of this. So, aged Gruyere is a good pick, too.