Its a Western NY and Canadian Thing
A much sought after summer tea with the crispness, sharpness, and lushly acidic possibilities of chilled wine, icewine tea is bound to compel even the most seasoned of Tea experts. If there is a drawback to this briskly delicious strain of tea (there isn't, really) it's that the wine that it incorporates is sadly de-alcoholized during the process. One must humbly recall that life cannot, after all, be all good all the time.
Icewine Tea? But I Haven't Even Tried Icewine!
Ever wonder why a microwave ignites metal into sparks and flames? Microwaves serve one incredibly targeted function: they agitate the water molecules in foodstuffs (and drinkstuffs) at incredible rates. Since metal is without internal moisture, the few semi-hydraulic elements become somewhat hysterical, leading to eventual sparks. Food is mostly water. Not all, but most. This is why the cheese on your pizza gets gooey in seconds in a microwave while the crust and tomato sauce heat on their own schedule.
It's also why grapes frozen completely solid and then starved of their water content become incredibly pure and condensed sources of the core elements (the grapeness, if you will) that form a wine's flavor profile. Wine drinkers will know (and happily tell you, they do love to share their expertise) that these remaining elements are acids, aromatics, and sugars. Essentially, these are clarified and concentrated in frozen grapes and can easily be separated from the filler water. From this, wine can be made.
Infusing ice wine with tea might sound inevitable, but it actually yields a deeply curious and rich composition, rather than a gimmick of any kind. The ripeness of the grapes and the sweetness of their concentrated frozen form make for an alluring blend with tart black base leaves. Infusion can be carried out several ways, but always ends with a delicately fruity underlying chill, and layers of almost foggy black tea above, with each sip as complex as you could hope for without simply being overwhelming or falling into the trap of some fruit teas in mistaking crispness for clarity.
It's an ideal summertime drink. For those uninitiated, it's a conversation topic in and of itself. Once the brows have unraised, it's worth discussing Canada's recent rise in vineyard industries, which have made ice wines a staple of their output. Wine country in Canada (that's right) represents, as of this year, more than a billion dollar prospect. And our neighbors to the north are plenty proud of this frosty innovation, which is why you'll often see the 'correct full name' written out as Canadian icewine tea.
Here in the Finger Lakes wine county which lies in chilly western NY has also embraced this winter harvest drink. A local winery Casa Larga has a winter festival around the harvest of the Grapes. While the output is not as large as Canada's, NY is jumping on the ice wine wagon.
Canada, however, didn't invent the wheel with this one, but only perfected its tea-infusion format. For proper thoroughness, we must mention that eiswein itself is as German as apple strudel, a phenomenon that, in keeping with German's tradition of practicality, occurred only on the single coldest day of the year. The process of guessing when this will be and collecting the hyper-sweetened cryo-grapes before the sun rises and rots them makes for an old and storied tradition.
Summertime, And The Livin's Easy
Icewine tea has a fine range to it, though it's a very sweet and bright (rather than dynamic) tea. It can be a more mellow and plain brew, or a sharply-flavored point of discussion. Strength varies according to the tea used during infusion. Chilled iced tea pitchers are lovely and long lasting, with their cooling vaporous flavor to add to your summer afternoons. And a hot cup still provides that rarest of things: a new sensation. The 'frozen warmth' of a cup is unique indeed. Let it's crisp, rare sweetness rush through your summer like a frozen northern breeze.