As It Happens

Warm winter means Germany can't make any ice wine

If winters keep getting warmer in Germany, the country's famous ice wine might cease to exist, says an industry spokesperson.

Industry spokesperson says climate change could spell disaster for the world-famous dessert wine

To make ice wine, German vinyard workers have to harvest the grapes on short notice, often in the middle of the night. (Daniel Karmann/DPA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Transcript

For the first time in Germany's winemaking history, the country's vinyards won't produce any ice wine, according to the German Wine Institute. 

That's because none of the country's wine regions saw the necessary low temperature of - 7 C in the 2019 season that it takes to produce the sticky sweet alcoholic beverage. 

And if winters keep getting warmer, the country's famous ice wine might cease to exist, says an industry spokesperson.

"If the trend really goes on, the ice wine will be much more rare than it is already," wine institute spokesperson Ernst Buescher told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"In future, maybe you don't have any ice wine anymore."

A helper gathers grapes at a vineyard in Kiechlinsbergen, southern Germany, on Jan. 7, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/DPA/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany has been making ice wine since 1830, and it's always been a rare and expensive treat because of the narrow window in which it can be produced. 

The dessert wine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine, concentrating the sugars and creating an intensely sweet taste. 

The first moment the temperature falls below - 7 C,  workers must race to the vineyards to harvest the grapes on short notice within a few a hours — sometimes in the middle of the night. Then they press them immediately while they're still frozen.

The timing is tricky, and winemakers risk losing the grapes they've set aside for ice wine if they rot on the vine before the hard freeze comes.

"Due to the climate change, the grapes are getting ripe much earlier than in former times," Buescher said. "It will be more and more precious."

Ice wine is made from frozen grapes with concentrated sugars for a sticky, sweet taste. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Ice wine amounts for about 0.1 per cent of German wine production because it's produced in small batches. Buescher says companies make it for the prestige.

"It's something for the reputation of a winery, and it's something also to show your your skill of winemaking," he said. 

Still, while German ice wine might be on the decline — it continues to be produced in other countries, including Canada.

Ontario's Niagara Peninsula is a leading producer of ice wine, thanks to Canada's cold winters. It's also made in northern Michigan and Ashtabula County, Ohio, near Lake Erie.

What's more, Buescher says, countries like China are entering the ice wine game, "with the help and support of German winemakers."


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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