The reddish purple St. Pepin grapes were brittle on the vine in frigid single-digit temperatures the morning of Dec. 6 at Wollersheim Winery’s hillside vineyard.
About 20 grape pickers wearing face masks and layers upon layers of coats and sweaters harvested 5,400 pounds of the grapes to be turned into 280 gallons of a thick, brown juice that forms the basis of Wollersheim’s 2014 Ice Wine vintage.
The grapes are left on the vine to maximize their sweetness.
“By leaving them on the vine the flavors concentrate,” winery co-owner Julie Coquard said. “The regular harvested grapes are 20 or 22 percent sugar, this is 35 to 37 percent sugar. Ice Wine is something you drink a little bit at a time. It’s very concentrated in sweetness.”
The finished Ice Wine ill be available in October.
The time of harvest dependent on the weather, and this year’s crop was picked just before a few inches of snow fell.
Had the grapes been left until the weekend, the snow storm could have knocked the grapes off the vine.
“If we wait too long the grapes will just fall off the vine from even the wind,” Coquard said.
She said the St. Pepin grapes were created in Wisconsin and are meant to be grown in a place where it gets cold. They are picked at 12 degrees or below.
Ice Wine isn’t meant to ferment much beyond when its bottled.
“The alcohol comes from the sugar in the grapes,” Coquard said. “The fermentation would not convert into a higher alcohol. The intensity of the flavor matches the intensity of the sweetness. It’s better to drink after it’s bottled. But it has a shelf life of years. It really doesn’t change.”
There is 2013 Ice Wine vintage available at the winery located in Highway 188 in Prairie du Sac.