Biosphere Climate Change Daily Earth Science Repost

German ice wine getting pricey

Ice wines have many virtues. They make good after-dinner drinks, and a cold sweet glass of ice wine in the hot tub can be a delight. But ice wine lovers need to fatten their wallets because the price for this fine drink is going up. Climatic warming is messing with the world of ice wines. This year only one winery from the 13 German wine regions produced a batch of ice wine.

The culprit for this wine disaster was temperature. There is a magic temperature for the production of ice wine, so a warm winter affects the ability of vineyards to harvest the grapes properly. The grapes must be harvested at a temperature below 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The first night the temperature drops below the bewitching level of 19 degrees, it is all hands on deck because the grapes need harvesting immediately in their semi-frozen state. Then the processing of the grapes begins, and a batch of ice wine is on its way.

Like brides left at the altar, the winemakers waited for the magic night that never arrived.  Blame it on global warming perhaps, but the winter temperatures never dropped low enough to harvest the grapes. This was terrible year in German wine country, but poor harvest due to climatic warming also happened in 2017, 2014, and 2013.

Making ice wine

Once the temperature drops below 19 degrees Fahrenheit, then the grapes will freeze while still on the vine. These late harvest grapes contain lots of sugar which will not freeze. So, at the magic temperature, the water in the grapes freezes. About 80 percent of a grape is water, and the concentrated sugars account for the remaining 20 percent. 

The water/sugar split in the grapes gives an early hint about the added expense of producing ice wines. When the frozen grapes are pressed, the ice shards stay with the skins, and the remaining concentrated sugary juices flow out. So, enough grapes to produce a bottle of regular wine will provide only a glass of ice wine.

Supply and demand

Ice wine (or Eiswein in German) starts as a bit of a premium product due to the simple math of producing only 20 percent of the liquid available in the grapes. Then supply and demand kicks in. Fine ice wines are produced in countries other than Germany, but the German Eiswein is still considered a premium product. When supply drops and demand stays high, lovers of this winter wine need to dig deeper into their wallets. 

A warm winter spells disaster for many vineyards. But those that can produce their wine and get it to market will see profits rise as demand exceeds supply. Climate change and global warming produce winners and losers in the ice wine business, but a shrinking supply will always put the consumer on the losing side of the equation from a cost perspective. However, money may be a secondary consideration for true ice wine lovers.


Modeling microclimate change (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:


A Warm Winter Left Germany Unable to Produce Its Famed Ice Wines (By Brigit Katz; Smithsonian Magazine) – Also:

Icewine (By Tony Aspler; The Canadian Encyclopedia) – Also:

Feature Image: Ice wine grapes (By Dominic Rivard) (Modified) –  – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. –

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.