Our 2016 Vin de Glacière Riesling, affectionately named VDG aka the “ice monster,” pulled another great showing at the Canberra Riesling Challenge, one of the toughest Riesling-only competitions on the planet (or at least Planet Riesling). The Aussies gave it an elite gold medal and a 96 point score. 96 points! that makes the VDG one of the highest scoring Riesling of the entire competition and this competition covers the world of Riesling. This is great news and another fantastic award for our VDG that is accustomed to great scores from major American wine publications (Wine Spectator, Wine & Sprit or Wine Enthusiast): 2014 92 points, 2012 92 points, 2011 90 points.
If you have never heard of the VDG, it is a sweet Riesling wine made through a process called cryo-extraction. Cryo-extraction is the technique used to make ice wine. When we make the VDG, we handpick every cluster and then store them in cold storage. The difference with ice wines (which have been made for over 200 years – before we had freeze storage) is that ice wine uses Mother Nature to get the freezing done. The concentration process is fairly simple: when a grape gets frozen, the water freezes first and the sugar last – this is reversed when the grapes are thawed. If you follow me, when you thaw the grapes while pressing, you end up extracting all the sugar first, leaving the water frozen in the press thus concentrating the juice.
There are several advantages to artificially freezing grapes versus waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate. Firstly, making ice wine is a bit like playing Russian roulette; some years you get a good frost, some you don’t and other years, you lose half the crop to birds before the frost. The loss due to no freezing temperatures, rot or bird predation is not trivial, for example we make a true ice wine on average every four years and lose the crop the other three. Secondly, artificial freezing is predictable and relatively easy: no need to get up at midnight on Christmas day (though making a “Christwein” is somewhat romantic at first glance). Predictability allows us to get a known yield every year, which is reflected in the price (our VDG sells for $14 versus $59+ for a true ice wine). Thirdly, the chemistry is different for cryo-extracted wines made from early frozen fruit: the wines is a bit tarter (picked earlier) making it more refreshing and it is less “funky” (no botrytis). We love sipping and crafting both styles and each has a reason to be stored in your cellar. I would say that the VDG is a perfect every day sipper for the price and ice wine should be reserved to special occasions.
We’ve made our first VDG in 1986 making it the first artificially cryo-extracted wine made in the USA –this is a heritage that we are very proud of. The VDG has allowed us to make a reasonably priced dessert-sweet Riesling that completes our range of classic Riesling styles which covers the entire sweetness scale: Dry, Riesling J (medium Dry), Sweet Riesling (medium Sweet) and Vin de Glacière (Sweet). Being well acquainted with all four styles is necessary for Riesling Enthusiasts/geeks.
There are many great pairings with the VDG; the classic parings would include blue cheese, foie gras or a fruit tart. Because of its lowish alcohol content (~9% ABV) and high acidity, it is a bright, refreshing dessert style that lifts the palate and that is not cloying. The VDG is also a good companion in cocktails by adding more depth and more mellow sweetness than a simple sugar mixture. Regardless there are few wines that bring as much quality for the money than the Vin de Glacière. There is no reasons not to stock up on VDG 2016 for the holidays: great price, one of the best Riesling in the world, perfect with pumpkin pie/Christmas dessert/friends and family, fantastic new ice dragon package!