The ice wine harvest has begun in Germany.

The ice wine harvest has begun in Germany.
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Germany Begins Ice Wine Harvest

The pruning shears are already rattling to cut ice wine grapes in Germany as many wineries speculate on the coming season.

This week the ice wine harvest began in Germany's vineyards. The Korrell winery in Bosenheim in the Nahe region was one of the first to get down to business in the early morning of 21 December. With the temperature at  -8.5°C, the harvest assistants were able to bring in a Riesling ice wine from the Bad Kreuznacher Paradies vineyard.

"Despite the long waiting period, the grape condition was almost perfect with 142 degrees Oechsle and 9.8 grams per litre of acidity," says Martin Korrell happily.

German wine law allows the designation "Eiswein" (Ice wine) if the temperatures at the time of harvesting the grapes are at least 7 degrees below zero. A pre-registration of the potential ice wine areas is required, which must be submitted to the Chamber of Agriculture by 15 November at the latest.

This year, the winegrowing businesses seem to have made particularly abundant use of this possibility – in the most important winegrowing state of Rhineland-Pfalz, 152 businesses reported still having grapes on the vine for the possible ice wine harvest, on a total of 107 hectares.

There has been a slump in ice wine production in recent years with only one estate in the whole of Germany able to harvest ice wine in 2019. Now the prospects for the 2021 ice wine vintage represent a clear upswing.

In 2020, 93 estates had already registered 72 hectares for Ice Wine. However, there is always the risk that the desired frost will not arrive and the grapes will spoil.

Even colder nights ahead

While the temperatures in Franken and the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer regions, for example, are still too mild for an ice wine harvest, the picking in the Nahe was expected to continue this week.

"The meteorologists are predicting colder temperatures for the coming night," notes Tim Fröhlich from the Schäfer-Fröhlich winery in Bockenau, "usually the second night is the colder one anyway, because the soil is colder then as well.

"It wasn't cold enough for us last night," Frank Schönleber from the Emrich-Schönleber estate, also in the Nahe region, said of Monday night. "I was in the vineyard again at midnight and then again at six in the morning, when the grapes were noticeably frozen, but I still expect it to be two or three degrees colder next night than the minus six we measured last night.

Rebecca Crusius from the Dr. Crusius Winery in Traisen, also in the Nahe, likewise is waiting in the wings: "We still have the ice wine grapes hanging, Riesling of course, because the temperature was still a bit low this morning. Of course, it also depends on the plot – in a frost pocket that collects cold air it can easily be two or three degrees colder than in the rest of the vineyard."

"There is also another period of cold weather forecast for January," says Tim Fröhlich. "But I will decide tonight whether we will pick everything right away or only part of it. You can already tell if the grapes are really well frozen. It would actually be a nice end to the season if it worked tonight. When you bring the grapes into the cellar at dawn and know that you can dismantle the presses in a few days. And so close to Christmas."

Ulrich Sautter
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