After an unusually mild winter, Canadian winery Inniskillin has just begun its icewine harvest.

Inniskillin has two wineries at either end of Canada – one in Okanagan, 150 miles east of Vancouver, and one in Niagara in central Canada. Both delayed their harvests until the last couple of days while they waited for temperatures to fall below minus 8 degrees celsius, the temperature at which grapes freeze.

At Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, winemaker Karl Kaiser started harvesting on Monday evening at 6pm, in temperatures of minus 12 Celsius. Picking will continue throughout the week providing the temperatures remain cold enough.

Previous years’ records demonstrate the unpredictability of the icewine harvest – grapes have been picked as early as 5 December and as late as 15 February. Winemakers prefer to pick earlier rather than later – grapes fall prey to birds, and yields drop the longer grapes stay on the vine.

At Oliver in British Columbia, Sandor Mayer, winemaker at Inniskillin Okanagan started picking Riesling and Vidal grapes 29 January.

A press release said, ‘Picking under ideal conditions from minus 9 to minus 11 Celsius brought the good sugar levels Mayer needs.’

Both winemakers have been had to cope with an unusually mild winter in the Okanagan Valley and in Ontario. Gerald Klose, vineyard manager in Niagara said, ‘After many close calls we are thrilled that the opportunity has finally presented itself.’

Inniskillin, owned by Canadian international Vincor, produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as its highly-rated Icewine from Riesling and Vidal.

Written by Adam Lechmere6 February 2002