(Pronounced ice-vine’) A phenomenon among German wines which, originally made through force of circumstances and more or less by chance, is now a sought-after rarity, often commanding very high prices when it can be found. Essentially, to make an eiswein, there must be a severe night frost, when the fully ripe or even overripe grapes are actually frozen hard. When gathered early in the morning, they are rushed to the presshouse and go into the press still frozen. The juice inside the grapes is naturally concentrated, and the pressing goes on for as long as this concentrate flows. Subsequent fermentation at a low temperature presents special problems.
The wines are worthy of consideration anyway, because they are usually made in years not otherwise outstanding for quality, when grapes may have been left on the vines in the hope of their ripening still more. The eiswein usually rank well above the normal run of wines. They are curious in style, delicate in character and are never cheap. They can only be made in the classic regions of the Rhine and the Mosel and it is worth noting that some reputable authorities deplore the growing frequency with which they are being made. Some equally reputable growers refuse to make them at all. My own description of them is that they are ‘ghost wines’ – shadows of what the fully ripe wines of high quality might be; but they do possess an individual delicate style.