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Friday, November 30, 2018

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Tank with Icewine juice fresh from the press and covered with frost.

Years of waiting are over. Thursday morning we were finally able to harvest Icewine once again. It did not come completely unexpected tough. Forecasts predicted a tight chance more than a week ago already. And tight it was, but also just cold enough!

Frozen grapes in the vineyard before the icewine harvest.

Grapes have to be thoroughly frozen for Icewine (see picture). Harvested that way, they are processed immediately and crushed while their water ist still frozen. Only the concentrated juice is gathered from the press and this explains why Icewine ist so sweet, even after fermentation. The fresh juice’s temperature is still below the freezing point of water and beautiful frost covers the tank it is collected in (see picture on top).

Rows of grapevines lit only by car head lights.
Pitch black night in the vineyard before the harvest starts.

For grapes to freeze it has to be cold enough. Usually -7° C are required and cooler ist better. That normally happens in clear nights just before sunrise. We were therefore out at 4 a.m. already (see picture), equiped with warm clothing and a thermometer. First the readings were around -5° C with grapes not completely frozen. Everything looked like it was not going to happen. But then, just before sunrise the temperature dropped some more. We got an OK from the relevant authorities and started to pick our grapes at around 6.30 a.m. One hour later the show was over and the grapes in our cellar.

After the grapes have been picked, time is not so critical anymore. In a big heap on a trailer they do not melt quickly and there is some time. The grapes are then officially weighted and registered before they are transferred into the press. The resulting juice undergoes another official screening (yield, sugar concentration) before fermentation begins. With sweet juices like Icewine this can take weeks or even months. But there is enough time until spring in our cool wine cellar.

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