To create an Eiswein is a test of the winemaker’s skill and artistic ability and earns wine lovers highest respect. The most famous (and expensive) ice wines are German Eiswein. This sixth Prädikat level is among, if not, the rarest category in the world. Eiswein is a more recent German wine style than the botrytised wines like Auslese. Throughout the 19th century and until 1960, Eiswein harvests were a rare occurrence in Germany. Only six 19th century vintages with Eiswein harvests have been documented, including 1858, the first Eiswein at Schloss Johannisberg. Exactly when it was discovered, no one knows for sure. There are indications that frozen grapes were used to make wine in Roman times but the most common belief is that it was accidentally discovered in the Franconia wine region, near the city of Wurzburg, Bavaria in 1794. An unexpected frost froze the grapes, and the region’s vintners wanted to salvage the crops by picking and pressing the frozen grapes. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that Dr. Hans Georg Ambrosi “The Father of Eiswein” began experimenting with ice wines in Germany, influencing many contemporary producers. Making natural ice wine comes with a lot of risks and expenses. Legally, natural ice wines require a hard freeze, which means getting down below minus six degrees Centigrade. Grapes are left hanging on the vine for months following the normal harvest, making them susceptible to all kinds of problems (and critters). If the freeze doesn’t come quickly enough, the grapes can rot and the crop will be lost. Eiswein production is a massive gamble and the winemaker cannot always guarantee a vintage every year, which is what makes the wine so rare and affects the price quite dramatically year to year. If the freeze is too severe, no juice can be extracted (many a German winery has purportedly broken its pneumatic press on grapes that were frozen too-hard). The grapes are picked and pressed while they’re still frozen, which means careful handling, and harvest helpers working in the middle of the night and the early hours of the morning in freezing cold unheated spaces. The super-high sugar levels means ridiculously slow fermentations, which can cause winemakers sleepless nights. Unlike grapes from other dessert wines, ice wine grapes tend to not be affected by Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot which gives them a nice refreshing acidity.
Varietal: Ehrenfelser, Scheurebe, Silvaner, Weißburgunder, Chardonnay and Müller-Thurgau
Best Served with: Ideal on its own, Aged Cheddar and Rich creamy Blue Vein Cheeses, Dessert, Crème Brule, Fruit
Alcohol Volume: 9%
Standard Drinks: 3.56