Germany's Ice Wine Harvest Wiped Out Due to Warm Temperatures

It's "the first year in which the ice harvest has failed nationwide," according to a German wine marketing group.

The effect of climate change on the wine industry has become a near-constant topic of conversation. Powerhouse regions like Bordeaux have been looking at new grape varieties that can stand up to warmer temperatures, and major producing countries like France and Spain have been tweaking their classification rules to help vineyards adjust. In Germany, scientists have even been attempting to peer into the future by pumping extra carbon dioxide onto a plot of grapes to mimic what conditions may be like in 2050.

Sadly, however, that future may be here ahead of schedule. The German Wine Institute (DWI) has announced that, for the first time, winter weather conditions never got cold enough in any of the country’s 13 wine-growing regions to naturally produce ice wine—which is made by harvesting grapes that have frozen on the vine. “The 2019 vintage will go down in history here in Germany as the first year in which the ice harvest has failed nationwide,” the wine industry marketing group said in a statement.

grapes at the vine in november
Jana Loesch/Getty Images

Temperatures reportedly must drop to as low as at least 19 degrees Fahrenheit for the grapes to freeze as required. And even if those temperatures are reached, other changes are affecting the harvest: The DWI explains that warm temperatures are ripening the grapes earlier while also pushing the coldest days of the season further back in January and February. “As a result, the period that the grapes have to survive in a healthy state until a possible ice wine harvest is becoming longer,” the group stated, according to Decanter.

Low yields have become more common in Germany, the Associated Press reported: Warm winters in 2013 and 2017 meant that ice wine was only made by five producers and seven producers respectively in those years. However, DWI spokesperson Ernst Buscher warned that these kinds of poor harvests are likely to become the norm, stating, “If the warm winters continue in the next few years, ice wines from German wine regions will soon become even more of a rarity than they already are.”

Admittedly, because of that rarity, the economic impact isn’t particularly huge: Ice wine apparently accounts for just one-tenth of one percent of all German wine production. But isn’t this typical of how environmental impacts occur? The most vulnerable products are the first to go. In that regard, consider the continued loss of German ice wine as another canary in the proverbial coal mine.

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