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Icewine harvest in grave doubt as temperatures fail to drop

Icewine production in North America and Europe this year will be almost non-existent due to abnormally warm temperatures.

Icewine picking [Image: Wines of Canada]

In the Mosel last week thermometers rarely dropped below 8C, over twenty-five degrees warmer than this time last year, when temperatures reached -16c.

Ernst Büscher, a spokesman at the German Wine Institute told Decanter.com it is unlikely Eiswein will be produced this year.

There was a good Eiswein yield last year, which led many producers this year to hang on as long as they could.

‘Unfortunately to date, temperatures have not dropped to -7C which is the minimum temperature for Eiswein production. The weather forecast doesn’t predict low temperatures within the next few days so most of the grapes that were reserved for Eiswein won’t be used.’

Stefan Erbes, of Weingut Karl Erbes in Ürzig said the chances are very low of harvesting the grapes for Eiswein. There is some advanced rot on the grapes meaning that temperatures would now have to reach at least -10C, colder than the officially required -7C, so that they are totally frozen at harvest.

Even if that did happen, he is not confident the wine ‘would achieve pure tone of the 2010 Eiswein.’

Across the northern United States and Canada the story is the same, with Icewine production down by at least 40%.

In Niagara the Icewine harvest is in danger not only due to abnormally high temperatures but also because of significant rainfall during autumn.

Although most Niagara Icewine producers also make table wine, considerable rainfall forced growers to pick the thin-skinned Riesling grape early leaving nothing for Icewine.

Producers such as Cave Spring Cellars and Chateau des Charmes, which only use Riesling, have to sit this season out.

With 2011 being the smallest harvest in the past 11 years, and the major varietal – Riesling – out of the picture, many are expressing concerns about meeting demand in the future.

Paul Bosc, chairman and winemaker at Chateau des Charmes said, ‘Although missing a season can be compensated by in-house reserves, two or three bad years could mean problems addressing the demands of the market.’

However, the region hasn’t given up hope. ‘It is too early to write the obituary for Niagara Icewine,’ Bosc said.

Meanwhile at prestigious producer Peller Estates Winery they are optimistic, as for a single evening this month temperatures fell to the required -10C, enabling a large portion of their grapes to be picked.

‘We are confident in our suppliers delivering the quantity and quality we need. One more good freeze and we will harvest the balance of our grapes,’ international sales manager Louise Wilson said.

Written by Adam Lechmere, and Emily Pearce in Niagara

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