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Canadian Icewine to hit half million dollars: but will it last?

If you’re stuck for a gift for your beloved this Christmas, you might splash out on a bottle of Royal DeMaria Chardonnay Icewine – though at €500 a centilitre it might be beyond all but the most fervent aficionados.

The 2000 vintage comes in half bottles (37.5cl), currently retailing at CAN$30,000 (€20,000) each – which broken down works out at about seven times the price of a 100ml bottle of Chanel No 5.

And in a few months time that may seem cheap. Owner Joseph DeMaria is so confident of his skills at separating very rich people from their cash that he expects to raise the price to half a million dollars (€330,000) per bottle.

‘As usual I increase the price point as the sales increase. Although the 2000 Chardonnay Icewine is at CAN$30,000 now, I can guarantee that by the last bottle, it will have a price tag of CAN$500,000.’

DeMaria said he in the process of closing another three sales, ‘two of the to the same area as the first and the other to Japan.’ He added, ‘You can appreciate that the client asked not to be identified.’

According to Charlene Stephenson, director of sales and marketing for the Niagara winery, the first buyer lives in New York City but will be taking the bottle ‘overseas.’

While there is no ageability history for Chardonnay Icewine, a product first made by Royal de Maria, most Canadian Rieslings – the most common grape for Icewine – will last for 15 years if well cellared.

But experts are doubtful as to the staying power of a Chardonnay Icewine, as the grape, unlike Riesling, does not have the acidity necessary for ageing.

Freddy Price, an expert on German Eiswein, said that Eiswein – the German or Austrian original version of Icewine – was normally drunk within two or three years.

‘It doesn’t really improve in quality like some of the other great sweet wines. It loses some of its freshness and acid on the attack.’ But he agreed some of the best Riesling Icewines could last 30-40 years.

He suggested €200-300 would be the maximum price one should pay for a young bottle from a top German producer like Dr Loosen. He also said he had ‘never heard’ of Icewine made from Chardonnay.

The 2006 harvest of Ontario Icewine began on last Friday (8 December) at Henry of Pelham Family Estate, when the temperature dropped to minus 8 degrees Centigrade, the temperature required for grapes to freeze solid.

Written by Tony Aspler, and Adam Lechmere

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