2020 Harvest Update: Early Ice Wine Harvest in Germany

According to the German Wine Institute (DWI), winegrowers in several German wine regions, including the Nahe, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Franken and Rheingau, successfully harvested frozen Eiswein (ice wine) grapes at freezing temperatures on November 30, 2020.

This is good news for Eiswein lovers, as this year’s comparatively early harvest date offers the best conditions for healthy grapes and high-quality ice wine. In recent years, winemakers often had to wait until January or February of the following year to harvest — German wine law requires temperatures drop to at least -7 degrees Celsius before winemakers can pick grapes for Eiswein.

Mainly Riesling grapes were harvested this year, which are perfect for ice wine as they naturally ripen later than other grapes. Leaving grapes on the vine for potential ice wine production is a risk winemakers must weigh each year. If conditions are right, the season is crowned by rare, noble sweet wines that can collect high prices and are sought after by collectors. If it doesn’t get cold enough, however, the grapes are wasted.

Ice wine is produced by pressing the grapes while they’re still frozen, so only the sweetest juice, which has a lower freezing point than water, drips from the wine press as sweet as honey. The colder the weather, the higher the concentration, and temperatures have already sank to -12 degrees Celsius in Franken!

Because of the unique process, ice wines usually have very high natural residual sugar but relatively low alcohol levels – often only around 7% by volume. Thanks to the balance provided by the fresh fruit acid, Eiswein’s sweetness isn’t overpowering — a masterpiece only northern wine regions can achieve!

Ice wines are great companions on festive occasions and are ideal as an aperitif. They are best paired with fruity desserts, ice cream or sorbets, or mature fine cheeses.

Cheers to an exciting end to the 2020 harvest! Learn more about viticulture in Germany here.