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Niagara kicks off 2007 ice wine harvest

Winery workers in Niagara Canada were out in force yesterday for the start of the country’s ice wine harvest.

With temperatures dropping below -8C (17.6F) in the early morning of 3 January, the conditions were cold enough to freeze the grapes on the vine – a prerequisite for harvesting ice wine.

Producers were confident of a good vintage.

‘For ice wine, this is the best vintage in recent memory,’ said Paul Speck of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. ‘The grapes are very ripe and really healthy with tons of flavour.’

Speck’s winery was one of many big names to harvest two nights ago including Hillebrand, Inniskillin Niagara, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, Peller Estates and Pillitteri Estates.

However, the weather in the region is expected to warm up for the next few weeks, halting the picking temporarily.

Despite short periods of cold weather in November and December allowing a handful of wineries to pick a few grapes early, the vast majority came in on 3 January.

‘The temperature fluctuation over the last few months is what’s great about this vintage. It has created slight dehydration in the grapes, improving their flavour profiles and quality. The flavours this year are spectacular,’ said Charlie Pillitteri, head of Pillitteri Estates Winery.

To produce ice wine, wineries press the grapes frozen, releasing concentrated nectar and leaving behind the water portion of the juice.

The 2007 harvest is expected to be complete by the end of February. The first wines will be released in the spring.

Written by Carolyn Hammond

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