Sunday, February 7, 2010

Eiswein in Germany and Icewine in Canada

Note: For an expanded and revised version of this posting, see:
2012 Eiswein in Germany, Icewine in Canada, and Cryo-Extraction Wines

Eiswein, or Ice Wine, belongs to the group of noble-sweet wines. There are basically two methods of producing noble-sweet wines .

First, wait for the grapes to be botrytised. Botrytise Cinerea (noble rot) is a fungus that under the right conditions attacks already-ripe grapes, shriveling them, concentrating the sweetness and acidity. The grapes end up looking disgusting but they make profound sweet white wines with complex apricot, honey and spice flavors and good balancing acidity. Typically noble rot forms best in conditions where morning mist from a lake or river gets burnt off during the day by hot sun.

Second, wait for the grapes to be frozen. Grapes used for producing ice wine have a substantially lower level of sugar in the vineyard than the botrytised grapes, but that night, when the grapes are harvested, the frost has converted the grapes into ice. Because the grapes are frozen, most of the mass is water, and is left behind as ice in the press. Only a small amount of concentrated juice is extracted. This also produces profound sweet wines, but without the taste of the noble rot.

The main producers of ice wine are Germany and Canada. In Germany, there is no guarantee for the vintners for the frost to come and to allow them to pick frozen, sugar-rich grapes to make the sweet and expensive elixir. So, it is always a risk to let the fruit hang and wait for the temperature to fall. In Canada, there is no such risk and this explains why Canada has become the leading producer of ice wine in the world.

In Germany, ice wine was harvested on December 18 and 19, 2009. In Canada the ice wine harvest is now in full swing.

I would like to refer you to Jonathan Ray’s interesting article in the UK Telegraph about ice wine here, to Will Lyons article in the Wall Street Journal, to here, as well as to my earlier posting on the German 2009 Eiswein here and Mario Scheuermann's posting of December 20, 2009 - in German - about the German harvest.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

German Winemakers in the World: Johann Schiller - the father of Canada's wine industry

2009 German Eiswein - icewine - was harvested on December 18 and 19

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine


  1. Do you prefer any particular Canadian Icewines? I usually advise folks to favor Riesling over Vidal. And my personal favorite is Henry of Pelham.

  2. I was just in the Niagara region over Christmas and visited Inniskillin and Peller Estates and was very impressed with the ice wines and the dry wines as well! I agree with Louis that Henry of Pelham makes some great wines too - will have to go back and visit them next time! Here's a little video from my visit and a look at ice wine