2019 is the first vintage with a single ice wine


The 2019 vintage will go down in history here in Germany as the first vintage with only one single ice wine. Without making it known to the public before, the Zimmerle winery from Remstal in Württemberg announced on March 3, 2020, that they had harvested Riesling ice wine grapes with a must weight of 155 degrees Oechsle at minus eight degrees Celsius on January 22. The harvest was less than 100 liters.

"Beyond that, we are not aware of any other winemaker from one of the 13 German wine regions, who managed to produce ice wine in this mild winter because the required minimum temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius was not reached," explained Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute ( DWI).

In recent years, the conditions for ice wine production have often not been optimal. "Last time this was the case in the 2017 vintage. As far as we know, only seven producers could harvest ice wine nationwide - three in Württemberg, three in Saale-Unstrut and one - on March 1, 2018 - in Baden. Before that, the winter of 2014/2015 was so mild that ice wine from the 2014 vintage is also an absolute rarity. And from the 2013 vintage we know  only five producers from Rhineland-Palatinate who have successfully read small amounts of ice wine and three from Saale-Unstrut, ”said Büscher.

Challenges for ice wine production

Another problem for ice wine production is that in recent years the dates for a possible ice harvest have shifted more and more into January and February, while the grapes tend to ripen earlier and earlier. As a result, the period that the grapes have to survive in a healthy state until a possible ice wine harvest is becoming longer.
In addition to the health of the grapes at the end of the harvest, the amount harvested in one vintage also influences the willingness of the producers to leave grapes hanging for ice wine production. In years with low yields, many growers tend not to run the risk of losing more grapes due to a lack of ice wine harvest.
The good ice wine years of the last decade include the years 2012 and 2015, in which very high-quality and concentrated wines of this noble sweet specialty could be harvested at temperatures often below minus ten degrees Celsius.

If the warm winters accumulate in the next few years, ice wines from the German wine regions will soon become even more of a precious rarity than they already are," explained Büscher. After all, the harvest amount for ice wine is usually only around 500 liters per hectare on average.

Meaning of ice wine in Germany

Ice wines play a particularly important role for the reputation of the producers and are also highly valued internationally. They regularly achieve the highest ratings in wine competitions and often record prices at wine auctions.

The most important sales markets abroad include Japan and China as well as the Scandinavian countries and the USA. Because of their inherently low yields, icewines have a very small share of the total harvest, often less than 0.1 percent.

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