A record year for the Okanagan wine industry is still pushing on through the winter season with some valley wineries getting an early ice wine harvest.
Sub-zero temperatures covered the Okanagan in late November and the annual ice wine harvest came early with wineries along the valley picking the grapes for B.C.’s “liquid gold.”
The second earliest harvest on record occurred last year on Nov. 12, 2014. This year, ice wine harvests started on Nov. 25. The wine is made from frozen grapes harvested at -8 degrees Celsius, and must reach quality standards including 35 brix of sugar to be called a true ice wine.
The first ice wines to the table in 2015 were brought in by Volcanic Hills Estate Winery in West Kelowna on Nov. 25. President of the winery, Bobby Gidda, reported that the overall quality is very good with sweet characters, with over 40 brix in their Chardonnay.
“Being such a hot year, I thought a lot of the crop would’ve fallen off, but the large clusters of grapes were all hanging in there and I’m seeing nice sugars in the fruit. I think it’s going to be a very good vintage for ice wine,” Gidda said.
The harvest caps off a year of rising numbers in B.C. wine tourism.
B.C. VQA sales are at an all-time high according to the British Columbia Wine Institute. As well, 30 per cent of VQA wines were sold directly from cellar doors. Statistics Canada reported that visitors to B.C. in the first eight months of 2015 were higher than ever before with an increase of 7.1 per cent over last year.
“It’s been an incredible first season for the Kamloops Wine Trail, said Trish Morelli, marketing director for the Kamloops Wineries Association. “All of our wineries had record numbers in visitors and sales. Our longest standing winery saw an increase of 73 per cent in July’s year-over-year tasting room sales.
Wine events will continue throughout the off season, with winter wine events happening the weekend of Dec. 4-6. For a full list of winter wine events visit WineBC.com.