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Interview: Reinhard Antes - How to make the World's best Icewine
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sobota, 21 styczeń 2006
- Recently we published on Winnice Polskie (Polish vineyards) website a news concerning the Icewine harvest, carried by Bergsträsser Winzer Eg, the wine cooperative you lead.
Maybe some day we will have our own "Icewine day" in Poland, what do you think, is it  possible? To tell the truth we dream of TBA (trockenbeerenauslese) or Eiswein in Poland. But we see that at the end of the way, now we are on the very beginning.

Yes, this will be a special way, just like in Canada.

- Could You please say a few worlds about Icewine, in
Germany called Eiswein?
Why it must be less then -7C? -7C is not enough? You mentioned once about full moon during harvest, "Vollmond" is really required to a harvest? Or it was only a joke?

Only during whole the night with the temperature below -7 degrees, the water in the berries gets to the ice, and the other ingredients of juice get concentrated.
Of course Vollmond is not necessary, but it is much better to see the grapes in the darkness… And you can control better, who is working and who is sleeping... ;-)

- How large is a crop comparing to the normal one? How the temperature could impact on the quality and quantity?

The quantity depends on the temperature. If it is colder, you get more quality, but less quantity. When you have a Icewine like ours over 190 Oe degrees, you get about 300-600 Liter from 1 ha. Means about 10-15 % of the normal quantity. This year we have only had 10 %, because it was a very late icewine and most of the grapes had been destroyed in last weeks. Normal quality with 130 degrees, like it is sold from "Aldi" or "Lidl"(WP comment: German cheap supermarkets) has about 1/2 or 1/3 of the normal grape quantity. It is made soon after the harvest, when the temperature drops to the -7 degree first time.

Is that truth that to make Eiswein, means to make decision much earlier in June and made special cutting? When do you finally decide – this part of the vineyard we leave for the Eiswein?

The decision to make icewine falls at the end of the autumn. We select the vineyards and grapes which are the best healthy (not ill!, quantity and quality isn’t so important.) This time we took a higher vineyard, because in the deeper places we had to much botrytis. This high vineyard was our problem on Saturday, because we had inversion-weather and in the high it wasn’t cold enough.

Every row left for Eiswein was covered by foil. We suppose almost the whole Riesling grapes felt down by this time?

In October we put manually away all the leaves to avoid botrytis in the foil,  and then the foil is tuckered every 5 cm. This is a terrible work, because You need thousands of little metal clamps... This work is mostly done by Polish season workers, because Germans run away, when they see this work. ;-)
When the grapes fall down (this year nearly 80 % had fallen)  they fall into the foil.
In the night of the harvest you need no scissors to cut the grapes. We beat from outside to the foil and the grapes are falling to the ground on the foil.
Then we make some holes into the plastic to get out the grapes every meter.
The crop is immediately transported to the cooperative. The presses come out in the night to get frozen to, because when they are to warm, the ice warms up soon and the effect is destroyed.
We press not outside the building, but with wide opened doors..
It last 1-3 hours to press. You can make some fractions of the juice: the first, deep frozen is the best, the others get warmer and quality is not so high. When the juice isn’t longer over 125 degree, the rest in the press is thrown away. It’s mostly the water...
Because you can press only one time a day, you need enough press capacity, when you have bigger areas.

- We saw a group of 20 people working by the harvest in the night and…Weinkönigin. This year it is Nadine Guthier. We know that you always choose a beautiful girl as a Weinkönigin. Could you say a few words about this tradition?

Our wine-queens need the following minimal things:
  1. Parents must have a vineyard at the Hessische Bergstrasse. In some “difficult cases” it is allowed, when there are only some vines around their house.
  2. She has to be not married. Now You can hope … J
  3. Age: minimal: 18   maximal: ??
  4. School finished
  5. If she works in a company, the chief has to agree this job, because in 1 year she has more than 100 events to visit…
  6. Parents (and friend(s)) have to agree. Because they have a lot of work (telephone, driving to the events a.s.o.)
  7. Of course it is good, when she has no fear to speak in front of hundreds of people (The all learned it very good in the past…)
  8. She has to go to the choice of the German “Weinkönigin” in October following their official year at the Hessische Bergstrasse! (all 13 wine-regions are present) It’s a big event in the German TV.  This is the hardest part for most of them…Most of them have fear of this. But all made it very good. 4 Year ago the German wine-queen was Petra Gärtner from the Hessische Bergstrasse. One Year later Lisa Edling was on the second place in a very short final. Pictures of them are on Petra Gärtner had 200 events all over the world! Another queen Kerstin Götzinger says the biggest event was her visit to pope Johannes Paul in Rome. She had a audience and he got a Wine from Hessische Bergstrasse…
  9. Tradition is about 50 year old. My father had the “work” to find out the next queens about 40 years… People say: “He is the father (J) of 40 queens…  Now it’s a commission, which has to find them out. The way is secret J …  But I can say to You, it is not easy to find a girl in our small wine-region, which agrees to this job, because it needs very much time!
- What time in the night do you start harvesting? The end is at sunrise.

ca. 6:30 is the last time for decision to start. Normally start is at 7:00, latest 7:30. Then we have 1 hour to harvest..In special cases (2 or 3 times in the last 20 years) the harvest was in the center of the night, because a weather change was coming and we had to hurry…

- Do you really need a large group of people to harvest Eiswein or it is only a
part of tradition?

We need so much persons, because we have only 1 hour. And in Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse Icewine has to be harvested with hand!
In Other regions you can make it with machines. They don’t use foil and therefore big quantities are destroyed or eaten by the birds and wild pigs...
We only try to produce the "high-end" icewines. Therefore we need the foil and the hand work. You know, in the year 1996 (25.12.1996) we harvested the world best Icewine, which got the London Inniskillin Trophy in the year 1998. This icewine was in the millennium edition 1999/2000 of Playboy (!). Markus del Monego (World Champion of Sommeliers) said in this edition, this is a product needed to save for the next century... (we have still about 200 bottles 0,375 L at 250 €). In this year Henry Kissinger got one of the bottles, because he was here as a leader of the American troops in Heppenheim after the war. At "Mundus vini" another icewine (Ehrenfelser), (WP comment: Geisenheim 9-93, crossing Riesling x Silvaner) harvested December 1999 got the best "edelsüßer Wein" of the year, and some others had Gold and Big Gold. Important for us is to get the best icewine in the year in our region.

- What is the press pressure for Eiswein?

We use pneumatic presses or old "Spindelpresses".
With other presses you have a problem, that you can press only one time.
Then you have an iceblock, and have to wait some days for its melting... With the pneumatic press (max. 2-3 bar) you can take a hammer to destroy the ice block and press a second time.
You also have a short way of the juice outside, what is very important. You need gas and heat to warm up the valves of the press etc, because everything gets frozen. When you use air in the pneumatic presses, there is water in it. This water gets to ice, and the valves etc get blocked.

- If it so difficult, don’t You have a allurement to make it easier and simply froze the grapes?
If some people use the reverse osmosis to concentrate maybe some other use the refrigerators to make "a kind of Eiswein".

Our way is this traditional (and expensive) way of icewine. In past in other countries (New world etc) the icewine was allowed to make in such artificial ways..  It was (is) a big problem for us, because their ways had (has) not to be declared on the labels. But their wine was (is) cheaper…
Now all Nations, which are part of OIV have agreed to the standard, that grapes have to be frozen and harvested outside in nature. Harvesting manual is our additional special way in Rheingau and Hessische Bergstrasse.

- There is to much question to ask...We hope to ask You same day more questions on winegrowing.

I hope this have been some answers...

Mr. Reinhard Antes remembers the best world Eiswein ’96.

“During harvesting the wine a painter Mr. Hans Borchert was helping. He made the special blue backlabel for the wine. I never forget the moment, when I did the phone call to him at holy evening and said: “Next morning we will have minus 13 degrees!. You can make a painting of the first Christmas-Icewine!..”. He sure thought “now he is complete silly…” But at
7:00 he was there.
At this time nobody thought, this could become the best icewine. Two years later at London Trophy it was clear. We decided to start selling exactly 31.12.1999, because it was our best wine of the century. Now he had 3 years time to make the label:

and to make a special painting for me. Its now in my living room, but he needed 3 Years!
He had to start three or four times to make this painting, because it’s not possible to show the special feeling during this special Christmas night harvest 25.12.1996. He only was able to continue during nights in winter .. J  He could not do this job in summer…
This is the result:


He only used two colours blue and white. The most difficult thing he had to solve, was the clear foil. It’s only a picture, but You can nearly feel the speed an hurry of the persons.. Nobody said to much words in this night. Everyone tried to be faster than the others, to finish the work before the sun rised...
You only can feel this picture complete, when the room is nearly dark and the moon is shining and You are sitting in front a glass of icewine J. When You look at the picture and the photos in our “virtueller Weinlagenwanderung” You could find out this special historical place….

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