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Winemakers Debate over Artificial Ice Wine
Ice wine may lose some of its exclusivity should winemakers decide to produce it artificially. According to a report by AP, some winemakers aim to make the beverage less expensive by limiting the uncertainty that drives up the price.
Ice wine comes with an exuberantly high price tag because of its elaborate harvesting procedure. Winemakers must harvest the grapes under the precisely right weather conditions and extract the high-sugar juice before they thaw. Slightest variation in temperature can ruin the entire crop. It is for this reason that the wine is highly priced and skilled vintners can charge $4 per ounce or more.
The nonconformist winemakers just want to put a tab on the process by limiting the uncertainty. They harvest the grapes earlier in the fall and age them in freezers that simulate the chill takes place under ideal outdoor conditions. They say the technique leads to ice wine that's less expensive and more consistent in flavor.
A quality Riesling ice wine from New York can cost $75 to $100, while the artificial version would run about $50, said Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
"If you're going pick the grapes and put them in the freezer, you can do that on your own schedule," Trezise said, "If you're going to pick according to nature's schedule, you literally have to have crews ready to go out at 5 in the morning when the temperature is just right. So the risk is greater and the labor costs greater to make naturally formulated ice wine. "
The purists are up in arms against the move. They insist nature cannot be improved upon and that half the fun of a great ice wine is being able to taste the winemaker's artistry and skill.
Tom Pennachetti, a winemaker with Cave Spring Cellars in Jordan, Ontario, said freezing grapes indoors defeats the purpose of making ice wine. There's a difference, he says, between letting each grape be exposed to the natural variations of outdoor temperatures and boxing up bunches in freezers where grapes in the center of the pack don't get the same exposure as those near the edges.
"Some people say what's the difference? That's a big difference," Pennachetti said.
The question remains, whether or not loyal ice wine drinkers accept the artificially made potion. Steve DiFrancesco, a winemaker at Glenora Wine Cellars Inc. in Dundee, N.Y., said artificial ice wines are clean, consistent and technically perfect, while natural wines have more depth, complexity and less predictability.
"People might try the one that's easier on price and then move up to something more expensive," DiFrancesco said.