Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ice Wine - From Jerez?!

Well, yes, and it was quite good. It was called Esencia de la Campiña and was made entirely from super-ripe Moscatel grapes which were then frozen by a firm called Viticultores del Jerez SL. This firm was established around 2002 with the idea of producing alternative products in the Sherry vineyards. This wine was made from grapes frozen not on the vine, like German or Canadian Ice Wines, but frozen artificially at specially set-up premises in Sanlucar. The small quantity of wine produced was bottled by hand.

The Ice Wine at Vinoble 2008 (Foto Diario Jerez)
The process is known as cryoextraction. Overripe grapes are frozen to around -7 degrees and pressed. The water content of the grapes turns into ice and the sugar-rich juice flows free. It is then fermented, but as there is so much sugar in the juice, the wine retains much of it giving concentration with a good acidity and balance.

The famous Cava producer in Cataluña, Gramona, is also producing Ice Wine by the same method, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, for instance, which they call Vi de Gel, but the Jerezanos were actually first with their Moscatel  – and then went on to experiment with Gewurztraminer in Jerez.

They then launched a product called Pepillo, which was popular for a while at the Feria.  It had been developed in collaboration with the Oenological Station of Cadiz, and was a wine based product with “all the characteristics of wine in terms of aroma, body and flavour, but only 6.5% alcohol” according to the firm’s manager, Jose Paz Ramos. It was aimed at the young and those who had to drive home, though naturally nobody was excluded.

Pepillo (Foto Diario Jerez)
It all seemed blessed by the stars, but the market is fickle, and the company only lasted about 10 years before being wound up. Interesting though they were, neither wine could ever expect support from the Consejo, or from ever-changing fashion. They were expensive to produce and required a large marketing budget. Anyway, Jerez is not exactly incapable of making outstanding sweet wine - without refrigeration.

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