Most of the water in the grapes crystallize at constant temperatures below -7° C. The sugar and other dissolved solids do not freeze, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wines. Eiswein usually has very strong acids, who act as a counterweight to the intense natural sweetness of these wines.
German Eiswein is an extraordinary wine specialty, particularly those made from the Riesling grape. Eiswein enjoys a very good reputation worldwide and is highly esteemed by wine critics and experts.
Eiswein production is obviously limited to that minority of the world’s wine-growing regions where the necessary cold temperatures can be expected to be reached with some regularity. Canada and Germany are the world’s largest producers of Eiswein.
The production of Eiswein is very risky. In some years the temperatures are not cold enough before the grapes rot or are otherwise lost. Furthermore, it requires a large number of workers to pick the whole crop within a few hours to press the grapes still in a frozen condition.
This results in relatively small amounts of Eiswein being made world-wide every year and making Eiswein generally quite expensive. Eiswein is part of the Prädikatswein quality category in the German wine classification.
History of the German Eiswein
The birthplace of German Eiswein is the municipality of Bingen-Dromersheim in the German wine region Rheinhessen. In the year 1829 the wine harvest was very bad. When the wine pickers started to pick the remaining grapes in the middle of the winter after heavy frosts to feed the cattle, they discovered that the grapes had a perfect sweet taste. From the pressed grape must the first German Eiswein was produced.
Because of the climatic conditions Germany and Austria were the only countries in which Eiswein was produced for a long time. Since 1975, however, Canada has also started to produce Eiswein and is today world’s largest Eiswein producer.