Once the main wine harvest has been successfully completed, one can observe that individual vineyards of certain vineyard sites haven’t been harvested yet. They have not been forgotten by the wine grower, but rather wait to become noble sweet delicacies. In case of a favourable autumn weather the grapes develop further and daily increase their degree of sweetness in a natural way.
Noble Sweet Delicacies Are a “Gift of Nature“
Generally a distinction can be made between two production methods of such noble sweet rarities. On the one hand, “Beerenauslesen” or “Trockenbeerenauslesen” are available, which require the assistance of a fungus, namely the so-called noble rot. If you want to impress your counterpart, you should remember the special term: Botrytis cinerea. When the grapes are very ripe in autumn and the weather is humid and relatively warm, this fungus infests the grapes, makes the grape skin porous and causes the grapes to shrivel like raisins. The water within the grape can evaporate and what remains is an extremely sweet juice from which very sweet wines are made. During harvest these shrivelled grapes are picked (in German: “herauslesen”), which explains the name “Auslese”. By the way, the yeast in the wine is not capable of fermenting the complete amount of natural sugar which is why such wines usually contain only very little alcohol. The high amount of sugar can also be seen if one tosses the wine in the glass since the consistency is ropier, almost rich and concentrated. “Trockenbeerenauslesen” are usually golden yellow in terms of their colour which is caused by the noble rot, while “Eisweine” keep their light colour.
Highly Suitable for Storage
Depending on how sweet the grapes were when they were harvested, gradations are made such as “Auslese”, “Beerenauslese” or “Trockenbeerenauslese”.”Trockenbeerenauslesen” are very rare, maybe even rarer than “Eisweine”, and thus very expensive. In recent years the most expensive “Trockenbeerenauslesen” have been auctioned off for well over EUR 1,000 per bottle. Such sweet wines are particularly suitable during the pre-Christmas period as an accompaniment for stollen, which also contains raisins, for spicy Christmas biscuits and of course as a valuable gift.
If stored appropriately such wines are durable over decades due to their high sugar content. For long storage wine needs to have a high proportion of extractives, fruit acid, ripe sweetness and alcohol. Noble sweet, older wines offer a perfection with their finesse and harmony which is difficult to surpass. They are particularly suitable for special moments and the big events in life. They should be stored in a professional manner and in a cool place, reaching their flavour-related perfection usually after five to ten years. The culinary enjoyment of such wines can be an unforgettable experience even after twenty or thirty years.
Noble sweet wines are excellent accompanying wines on festive occasions and also excellent as aperitifs, sending gourmets into rapture. When the menu comes to a close, the noble sweet rarities promise a glamorous finale. Because of their sweetness they are recommended according to the following rule: Like will to like, particularly along with fruity desserts, ice cream or sorbets.
(Source: German Wine Institute, www.deutscheweine.de as of 5 July 2011)
A Vintner’s Masterpiece
The actual Eiswein harvest, often in the wee morning hours, is a strenuous task. The frigid temperatures leave fingers stiff and painfully sore. Picking the frozen grapes is laborious, and in the end, yields a mere three to five hectolitres per hectare. The wine is produced as a rarity from the very beginning and calls collectors into action. These noble growths have their price, but the few bottles that are produced are quickly sold out.