The ice-wine market is overheating

Germans pioneered the global ice-wine market. But this winter, it didn’t get cold enough to make it.


March 2, 2020

That shattering you hear is the sound of thousands of German Weinliebhaber hurling their glasses against the wall. 

For the first time in recent history, the German Wine Institute announced a freeze on the country’s high-end sweet wine — ice wine, or eiswein.

That’s because temperatures failed to get cold enough this winter. They need to drop below 19 degrees Fahrenheit to bring ice wine up from the vines and into the crystalline goblets of the global elite.

Climate change is coming for your wine noses

The ice-wine market is tiny — only about 0.1% of the German wine market overall. Prices for different varieties start at ~$20 and shoot up from there — sophisticates love it.

Other ice wine hubs, like Canada and northern Michigan, are still going strong this season. Canada, for one, has overtaken Germany as the global leader, boasting $6.8B+ in revenue. But even it is witnessing a thaw in production as the number of cold days shrinks.

Iced wine is for phonies

To qualify as ice wine, grapes must freeze on the vine. When temperatures drop below 19 degrees, workers race through the night to harvest and press them, toiling in unheated buildings so the fruit stays frozen.

The result is the kind of rich sweetness that you don’t even have to feign classiness to enjoy.

But to be clear: Wines labeled “dessert wine” or “iced wine” are commercially frozen poseurs, and several countries forbid them from calling themselves ice wine. Pay attention to that extra “d.”

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