As the sun began to rise, the temperatures were in the single digits and slowly climbing as we harvested the last grapes of the 2020 growing season for a true cold-climate delicacy; Wisconsin Ice Wine.

“The harvest went really well. The quality is beautiful and the weather was perfect,” said Philippe, Wollersheim’s Winemaker. “The quantity is always a little deceiving when the fruit is on the vines. It’s less than we expected, but we are very happy with what we have.”

While the quantity was less than some of our winemaking team had anticipated, the total amount harvested this season is relatively average when compared to previous Ice Wine harvests. When combined with the consideration that this is shaping up to be an exceptional vintage, Ice Wine enthusiasts should be excited!

The sun rises as the crew harvests frozen grapes.

For those who may not be familiar with Ice Wine, it is a truly special wine that is unlike anything else. The highly concentrated juice is pressed from the frozen grapes, and then fermented slowly to produce an intensely sweet and concentrated wine that is like liquid honey. We like to call it our Nectar of the Vines.

“Ice Wine is very concentrated. It is made with white grapes and is almost like maple syrup in terms of sweetness and concentration,” Philippe said. “It is considered a dessert wine and is very special and unique.”

Like all wine regions, Wisconsin is blessed with its own natural advantages when it comes to producing specific wines and styles. Ice Wine is one of those distinctive wines. Wisconsin’s unique natural environmental factors, namely an intensely cold winter, are the paramount variables when it comes to producing Ice Wine.

“Ice Wine is unique because it can only be made in the northern most states. We can make ice wine because we have the cold temperatures,” Philippe said. “While a place like California has the heat for an intense Pinot Noir or Cabernet, we have the cold and we take advantage of what we have. California cannot make Ice Wine, and we can.”

The frozen St. Pepin grapes are unloaded to be crushed and pressed.

While there are certainly no shortages of cold winters here in Wisconsin, sometimes the stars don’t align and we aren’t able to produce Ice Wine, making it even more special. In 2019 we experienced a spring frost, which affected the total available crop at the end of the growing season. Due to a lack of fruit, Ice Wine was not produced last year so that other wines could be made.

“We cannot make Ice Wine every year. It is purely dependent on the growing season and the winter,” Philippe said. “The longer you wait the more you lose to the weather and other factors. You are trying to grab the very first cold snap to pick the grapes. This year we already cancelled it twice, so we feel very fortunate to have finally had the weather we needed.”

Our Enologist, Céline takes a sample of freshly pressed Ice Wine juice to test for sugar levels.

The Ice Wine has been pressed and will now ferment slowly until just the right moment. It will then be bottled and released at a later date in 2021. To stay up to date on the release of the 2020 vintage of Wollersheim Ice Wine and other fun and exciting news, follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

To view a video of the 2020 Ice Wine harvest in action, click here.