The Grapes of Winter

The Grapes of Winter | IELTS Academic Reading Sample Question

The passage contains the following question types from IELTS Reading Question Types:

  • Multiple Choice Question
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching headings

The Grapes of Winter

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14 which are based on Reading Passage .

If an artist must suffer to create great art, so does the winemaker when it comes to producing ice wine.

A. Ice wine, or Eiswein as the Germans call it, is the product of frozen grapes. A small portion of the vineyard is left unpicked during the fall harvest those grapes arc left on the vine until the mercury drops to at least -7°C. At this temperature, the sugar-rich juice begins to freeze. If the grapes are picked in their frozen state and pressed while they are as hard as marbles, the small amount of juice recovered is intensely sweet and high in acidity. The amber dessert wine made from this juice is an ambrosia fit for Dionysus1 himself – very sweet, it combines savours of peach and apricot.

B. The discovery of ice wine, like most epicurean breakthroughs, was accidental. In 1794, wine producers in the German duchy of Franconia made virtue of necessity by pressing juice from frozen grapes. They were amazed by an abnormally high concentration of sugars and acids which, until then, had been achieved only by drying the grapes on straw mats before pressing or by the effects of Botrytis cinerea, a disease known as ‘root rot’. Botrytis cinerea afflicts grapes in autumn, usually in regions where there is early morning fog and humid, sunny afternoons. A mushroom-like fungus attaches itself to the berries, punctures their skins and allows the juice to evaporate. To many, the result is sheer ambrosia. The world’s great dessert wines, such as Sauternes, Riesling and Tokay Aszu Essencia, are made from grapes afflicted by this benign disease.

C. It was not until the mid-19th century in the Rheingau region of northwestern Germany that winegrowers made conscious efforts to produce ice wine on a regular basis. But they found they could not make it every year since the subzero cold spell must last several days to ensure that the berries remain frozen solid during picking and the pressing process, which alone can take up to three days or longer. Grapes are 80 percent water; when this water is frozen and driven off under pressure and shards of ice, the resulting juice is wonderfully sweet. If the ice melts during a sudden thaw, the sugar in each berry is diluted.

D. Not all grapes are suitable for ice wine. Only the thick-skinned, late-maturing varieties such as Riesling and Vidal can resist such predators as grey rot, powdery mildew, unseasonable warmth, wind, rain and the variety of fauna craving a sweet meal. Leaving grapes on the vine once they have ripened is an enormous gamble. If birds and animals do not get them, mildew and rot or a sudden storm might. So growers reserve only a small portion of their Vidal or Riesling grapes for ice wine, a couple of hectares of views at most.

E. To ensure the right temperature is maintained, in Germany the pickers must be out well before dawn to harvest the grapes. A vineyard left for ice wine is a sorry sight. The mesh-covered vines arc denuded of leaves and the grapes are brown and shrivelled, dangling like tiny bats from the frozen canes. The stems of the grape clusters are dry and brittle. A strong wind or an ice storm could easily knock the fruit to the ground. A twist of the wrist is all that is needed to pick them, but when the wind howls through the vineyard, driving the snow- before it and the wind chill factor can make a temperature of -10° seem like -40°, harvesting ice wine grapes becomes a decidedly uncomfortable business. Pickers fortified with tea and brandy, brave the elements for two hours at a time before rushing back to the winery to warm up.

F. Once the tractor delivers the precious boxes of grapes to the winery, the really hard work begins. Since the berries must remain frozen, the pressing is done either outdoors or inside the winery with the doors left open. The presses have to be worked slowly otherwise the bunches will turn to a solid block of ice yielding nothing. Some producers throw rice husks into the press to pierce the skins of the grapes and create channels for the juice to flow- through the mass of ice. Sometimes it takes two or three hours before the first drop of juice appears.

G. A kilogram of unfrozen grapes normally produces sufficient juice to ferment into one bottle of wine. Depending on the degree of dehydration caused by wind and winter sunshine, the juice from a kilogram of ice wine grapes produces one-fifth of that amount or less. The longer the grapes hang on the vine, the less juice there is. So grapes harvested during a cold snap in December will yield more ice wine than if they are picked in February. The oily juice, once extracted from the marble-hard berries, is allowed to settle for three or four days. It is then clarified of dust and debris by ‘racking’ from one tank to another. A special yeast is added to activate fermentation in the stainless steel tanks since the colourless liquid is too cold to ferment on its own. Because of the high sugar content, the fermentation can take several months. But when the wine is finally bottled, it has the capacity to age for a decade or more.

H. While Germany may be recognised as the home of ice wine, its winemakers cannot produce it every year. Canadian winemakers can and are slowly becoming known for this expensive rarity as the home-grown product garners medals at international wine competitions. Klaus Reif of the Reif Winery at Niagara-on-the-Lake has produced ice wine in both countries. While studying oenology, the science of winemaking, he worked at a government winery in Neustadt in the West German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. In 1983 he made his first Canadian ice wine from Riesling grapes. Four years later he made ice wine from Vidal grapes grown in his uncle’s vineyard at Niagara-on-the-Lake. “The juice comes out like honey here” says Reif, “but in Germany it has the consistency of ordinary wine”.

Question 1-7

Reading Passage 1 has seven paragraphs A-G
From the list of headings below, choose the most suitable heading for each paragraph.
Write the appropriate numbers i-x in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet

List of Headings

i.  International comparisons
ii.   Unique grapes withstand various attacks
iii.   Production of initial juice
iv.  Warm temperatures reduce sweetness
v.   Cold temperatures bring a sweet taste
vi.   From grape to wine
vii.   More grapes produce less wine
viii.   Temperature vital to production
ix.    Infection bring benefits
x.   Obstacles to picking
xi.  The juice flows quickly

ExampleAnswer
Paragraph AV
1)Paragraph B
2)Paragraph C
3)Paragraph D
4)Paragraph E
5)Paragraph F
6)Paragraph G
7)Paragraph H

Question 8 -10

Choose the correct letter. A, B, C or D
Write your answers in boxes 8-10 on your answer sheet.

8)    Growers set aside only a small area for ice wine grapes because
A.
not all grapes are suitable.
B. nature attacks them in various ways.
C. not many grapes are needed.
D. the area set aside makes the vineyard look extremely untidy.

9)   Rice husks are used because they
A.
stop the grapes from becoming ice blocks.
B. help the berries to remain frozen.
C. create holes in the grapes.
D. help producers create different tastes.

10)  According to Klaus Reif, Canadian ice wine
A.
flows more slowly than German wine.
B. tastes a lot like German ice wine.
C. is better than German ice wine.
D. is sweeter than German ice wine.

Question 11-14

Complete each of the following statements (questions 11-14) with the best ending A-G from the box below.
Write the appropriate letters A-G in boxes 11-14 on your answer sheet.

11)   Franconia ice winemakers
12)   Famous dessert winemakers
13)   Ice wine grape pickers in Germany
14)   Canadian ice winemakers

A.use diseased grapes to produce their wine.
B.enjoy working in cool climates.
C.can produce ice wine every year.
D.were surprised by the high sugar content in frozen grapes.
E.made a conscious effort to produce ice wine.
F.drink tea and brandy during their work.

Answers for IELTS Reading Sample Question

1)   IX
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph B mentions ‘an abnormally high concentration of sugars and acids achieved by Botrytis cinerea’; ‘The result (of the disease) is highly desirable…’; ‘The world’s great wines are made from grapes afflicted with this disease’.
once you are quite sure you have the right paragraph, read in depth to confirm your choice

2)    viii
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph C mentions that’… the subzero cold spell must last several days to ensure the berries remain frozen solid during picking… ‘ and, ‘If the ice melts during a sudden thaw, the sugar in each berry is diluted’
again, read in depth to confirm your choice

3)     ii
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph D mentions that ‘not all grapes are suitable… only the thick- skinned, late-maturing varieties such as Riesling and Vidal (a unique or special grape type) can resist… predators…’ (a list of predators/attackers are listed)
again, read in depth to confirm your choice

4)   x
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph E states, ‘A strong wind or an ice storm could easily knock the fruit to the ground’; ‘howling (strong) wind’; ‘a wind chill factor… of -10°C’ – all these are obstacles that can (negatively) affect picking’
read in depth to confirm your choice

5)    iii
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph F states, ‘The presses (the things used for production) have to be worked slowly otherwise the bunches will… yield nothing’, ‘sometimes it takes 2-3 hours before the first drop of juice’ – this is the initial
read in depth to confirm your choice

6)    vi
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph G mentions ‘… grapes are harvested… The oily juice once extracted… is allowed to settle… it is then clarified… a special yeast is added… the wine is finally bottled…” – all these steps show the process from the harvesting of the grape to the production of the ice wine
read in depth to confirm your choice

7)     i
read each paragraph and note the main ideas (main ideas usually have a lot of information written about them)
read the words in the question (in the box) and find a match with your main ideas
notice paragraph H mentions ‘Germany may be recognised as the ice wine home… it’s winemakers cannot be produce it every year… but ‘Canadian winemakers can produce it every year’; ‘The juice comes out like honey (in Canada) in Germany it flows like ordinary wine’ – these are international comparisons
once you are quite sure you have the right paragraph, read in depth to confirm your choice

8)   B
scan the text looking for ways nature attacks the grapes
Paragraph D lists many ways that nature attacks the grapes
Various ways nature attacks (‘…birds, mildew and rot… a sudden storm’) are mentioned

9)     C
scan the text looking for the key words ‘rice husks’
Answer is located in paragraph F
rice husks are used to “… pierce the skins… (so the) juice flow(s)

10)       A
Scan for the surname Reif once located, read in depth for his view on Canadian ice wine
Answer is located in paragraph H
The juice from grapes in Canada “… comes out like honey… ” whereas in Germany “… it flows like ordinary wine.”
The context is that Canadian ice wine flows more slowly than ordinary wine

11)   D
Answer is located in paragraph B
“They were amazed by an abnormally high concentration of sugar… ”

12)   A
Answer is located in paragraph B
“… great dessert wines… are made from grapes afflicted by this… disease”

13)   F
Answer is located in paragraph E
“… pickers fortified with tea and brandy… ”
‘fortified’ is a difficult word but reading it carefully in context, we can work out that it has something to do with using (drinking) to give strength/energy and/or keep warm.

14)   C
Answer is located in paragraph H
“… winemakers cannot produce (wine) every year (but) Canadian winemakers can… ”

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