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Eiswein suffers under climate change

German Eiswein may soon be a thing of the past due to climate change.

According to Jochen Ratzenberger, of Wiengut Ratzenberger, studies on climate change conducted at the Geisenheim Institute, Germany’s foremost center for research and education in enology and viticulture, show a trend towards a lack of hard freezes in winter.

Very low temperatures are a necessity for producing the country’s traditional ice wine – the grapes will not freeze above 7 degrees celsius.

The problem of warmer winters is compounded by the fact that the longer you leave the grapes on the vine in the hope of a freeze, the more danger there is of rot setting in.

But Decanter contributor and German wine expert Freddie Price pointed out that botrytised styles beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese can be made at less risk and for more money.

Klaus-Peter Keller of Weingut Keller in Rheinhessen said that it was becoming ‘harder and harder to produce eiswein in Germany.’

Martin Kerpen of Weingut Kerpen, who has been making ice wine for 33 years, said, ‘Hopefully, the weather will not change too quickly so we will try still for some more years.’

He acknowledged that global warming makes the process more difficult, but added, ‘You only need one really cold night to get ice wine.’

Christa Jüngling of Weingut Paulinshof said she would keep trying as long as there is a demand for ice wine. ‘My opinion and that of many of my fellow winemakers is, let’s see what happens and let’s try it again.’

The dimming prospects for ice wine come at the same time that exports of German wine are rising and wine consumption at home has hit an all-time high – to 20.6 liters per capita. Exports rose 13% in value and 8% in volume in 2007.

Written by Janice Fuhrman in Bacharach, Germany

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