The potential for the largest icewine harvest is expected to happen this year according to the British Columbia Wine Authority.
Stephan Berney, general manager of the B.C. Wine Authority, said 27 wineries formally notified the authority of their intention to produce icewine this vintage. It is an estimated harvest of approximately 873 tonnes, the largest on record.
But, just because a large number of people have registered it doesn’t mean all the grapes will get picked for icewine, said Sandra Oldfield, winemaker and owner of Tinhorn Creek winery in Oliver.
“They still have to find a home at a winery. For example, we are not buying anymore because we have lots hanging out there. They can register, but maybe only half of that is going to find a home,” said Oldfield.
Tinhorn Creek has created icewine since 1994, but in small batches of about four tonnes of grapes. Oldfield said conditions have made it favourable for the potential of icewine this vintage.
“I am sure there is some crop that didn’t get sold this year, so now they are looking at icewine for it. It may not have ripened because it was not an easy ripening year,” said Oldfield. “It actually has been good conditions for the grapes we knew were hanging longer because that lower Brix level, or lower sugar level, really helps. Those grapes are in really good shape right now because they weren’t ripe for regular harvest, so if anything they should be able to hang quite a bit longer. If we don’t get cold enough until late December or early January, they probably still will be in OK shape. In previous years they would be rotting and falling off the vine.”
According to the B.C. Wine Institute, the first icewine in Canada was produced in Peachland at Hainle Vineyards and Estate Winery in 1974. Canada is now recognized as the world leader in icewine production.
Harvesting of the little frozen marbles from the vines is rigorously protected. Icewine must be produced exclusively from grapes that have been harvested, naturally frozen on the vine and pressed in a continuous process while the air temperature is -8 C or lower. Icewine grapes are harvested during the night to guarantee a temperature below -8 C.
The B.C. Wine Institute said there are numerous fake icewines available, particularly in Asia. Currently, there is no control over fake production, which is why it is suggested buying from a reputable retailer and look for the VQA designation.
Oldfield said there is a big market for icewine in Asia, but doesn’t see a-pent-up demand locally. For Tinhorn it is a unique product they can offer visitors at their winery, other wineshops and some restaurants.
“There is only about three countries in the world that can do it consistently and naturally year-after-year and that is Canada, Austria and Germany. There is not many products in the world that Canada can say that about. How many things are made in many, many countries in the world. It’s unique for sure, but in B.C. it is not what we hang our hat on,” said Oldfield.