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Canada’s Icewine harvest hit by mild winter

There could be virtually no Icewine produced in parts of Canada this year because of the unusually mild weather.

Wineries in Ontario and British Columbia are normally expected to have harvested Icewine grapes by the middle of January. But, as yet, it has not been cold enough to pick – the required temperature has to be at least –8 degrees centigrade. And time is running out for many producers whose grapes cannot survive the mild conditions.

‘Some of the Icewine varieties are written off,’ a spokesman at Ontario’s Southbrook Farms said. ‘We’re relying on Riesling this year, which holds up better in damp and mild conditions. We remain hopeful that conditions will change, but we can’t wait for much longer.’

So far, only a clutch of Ontario’s wineries has been able to pick Icewine. Matt Speck’s estate, Henry of Pelham, located on the Niagara Bench, was one of the lucky ones. ‘It’s been very close to Icewine conditions here, even half a degree has been crucial this year, and we’ve been able to pick,’ said Speck.

He predicts only 20% of the region’s producers could make Icewine this year. ‘There won’t be much this year if it doesn’t get colder soon,’ he said. ‘You can’t really pick beyond the middle of February.’

In the warmer climes of British Columbia, producers have already thrown in the towel. ‘Some BC wineries have called it quits for this year’s Icewine,’ said a spokeswoman at Hester Creek Winery. ‘We can only wait a few more days – the grapes are deteriorating fast.’

Fortunately for most Canadian producers, Icewine’s limited production, and pretty high price tag, means it doesn’t represent a significant part of their range. So no Icewine this year shouldn’t have a serious impact.

The nature of its production, where grapes are picked, crushed and pressed while frozen, makes it totally dependent on the climate. Speck added, ‘Nothing is guaranteed with Icewine, you just roll the dice every year and hope.’

Written by Tom Chippendale21 January 2002

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