The 2013 BC Icewine Harvest – Info from the BC Wine Institute

Yes it was cold enough to freeze grapes this past week, and ice wine flowed!  Well at least frozen grape juice, but the wonderful ice wine is soon to follow.  The BC Wine Institute issued the following press release about the latest ice wine harvest, and I am passing it along to you.  Enjoy!

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January 18, 2013 (Kelowna, BC)

Tantalus Vineyards ice wine harvest 2013

Tantalus Vineyards ice wine harvest 2013

The Icewine harvest has returned to British Columbia!

After last vintage’s second-earliest start on record on November 19 and 20, 2011 the majority of the Icewine harvest in the Okanagan was on January 11 and 12, 2013. Harvested at minus 8°Celsius or below, the wine made from these frozen grapes must reach quality standards including 35 brix of sugar to be called true Icewine.

While some Icewine was harvested in the early morning hours of  January 1, 2013, the majority of the Icewine harvest continued just a few weeks later from 10:30 PM on January 11, continuing to the early morning hours of January 12, ending at about 5:00 AM. The BC Wine Authority noted that 27 of the 31 potential wineries picked that weekend, collecting approximately 450 tons of frozen grapes. Temperatures during harvest ranged from minus 9°to minus 14° Celsius, and the harvest was spread around the Okanagan Valley, from north to south.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna picked 6.25 tons of Zweigelt for Icewine at the Summerhill Vineyard and Eidse Brothers Vineyard on Friday night, beginning at 12:00 AM in minus 11° weather. The grapes were at 42 brix at pressing – much above the requirement of minimum of 35 brix. Unfortunately, the winery was too late for their Chardonnay Icewine grapes. Summerhill’s CEO Ezra Cipes explained that “deer and birds ate our entire crop of Chardonnay Icewine this year, despite netting the grapes to protect them.” The wildlife also reduced the amount of Zweigelt Icewine available as they ate about three quarters of the potential harvest. Cipes explained that the winery has no deer fencing to protect the grapes and also has a nature preserve on the property – perfect for a family of deer.

Van Westen Vineyards in Naramata began picking their Icewine at 2:00 AM on January 12. With temperatures at -11°, the inner cluster berries were thoroughly frozen. By 4:00 PM that day, the temperature had warmed to -6°and the team was still pressing frozen grapes. The winery picked about 1.7 tons of Icewine overall.

Oliver’s Tinhorn Creek Vineyards picked their Kerner Icewine at 5:00 AM on Saturday, January 12. The winery reports that they also picked their Icewine on the same day in 2012 – January 12.

The Icewine varieties picked are diverse in the Okanagan Valley, ranging from aromatic whites to tannic reds. January 11 and 12 saw the following grapes picked for Icewine, in order for highest tonnage: Riesling (132), Merlot (77), Cabernet Franc (36), Pinot Gris (35), Chardonnay (35), Zweigelt (34), Viognier (33), Pinot Noir (25), Sauvignon Blanc (25), Ehrenfelser (8), Cabernet Sauvignon (4), Kerner (3.5), Oraniensteiner (1.5), Syrah (1), Lemburger (1), Pinot Blanc (1), Pinot Auxerrois (1), Semillon (0.5), and Muscat (0.5).

With the Icewine harvest begun, palates across BC can look forward to new Icewine releases in 2013.

For updates on the harvest, follow @winebcdotcom, #Icewine and #BCwine on Twitter.

About British Columbia Wine Institute

Since 1990, the BCWI has played a pivotal role in taking BC’s wine industry from a vision to an internationally recognized niche region producing premium wines and providing quality wine tourism experiences.

Representing 133 member wineries throughout the province, the BCWI supports and markets the Wines of British Columbia (BC VQA), which gives consumers assurance they are buying a wine that is 100% from BC. The BCWI also markets the Wine Regions of British Columbia; delivers quality trade, media and consumer tastings; and acts as the voice of BC’s wine industry by advocating to government on behalf of its members. Find more at www.winebc.com.

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A Good Time for Ice Wine

With snow falling here in Vancouver, I thought I’d talk a bit about Ice Wine. Ice wine’s origin is in Germany where it is called Eiswein. Eiswein production began in the late 1700s and more fully in the 1800s in Germany. The first Canadian ice wine was made in BC by Walter Hainle in 1973 at the Hainle Vineyards.

How is ice wine made? The short answer is the wine is made from frozen grapes, but of course there is more to it than that. The grapes are typically a white varietal, such as Riesling or Vidal, but you can now find some red ice wines, from Pinot Noir and other grapes. Riesling is the traditional grape for ice wine due to its high level of acidity. This high level of acidity is important to balance the high sugar content from the concentrated grape juice. The high acidity made the ice wine refreshing instead of cloyingly sweet (imagine drinking maple syrup).

There are rules for when a grape can be picked for ice wine. As I mentioned the grapes have to be frozen before being picked, but the temperature at the time of picking has to be at least -8 degrees Celsius. Any warmer and you legally cannot call the wine, ice wine. Grapes harvested at say -6 degrees Celsius can be called Late Harvest. Late Harvest wine tastes very much like ice wine, but is less aromatic and sweet. Some people prefer Late Harvest, plus the price of Late Harvest is usually half the price of the same size of Ice Wine.

Ice Wine and Late Harvest are more expensive than a traditional bottle of still wine, but it takes many more grapes to produce these wines. Whereas it could take one bunch of grapes for a bottle of wine, it may take 8-10 bunches of grapes for one bottle of ice wine or late harvest wine. Imagine how hard these grapes are when they are being pressed. As the water in the grape is frozen, just a small amount of concentrated grape syrup is left. I think of it like someone trying to squeeze water from marbles. Very hard!

Some wineries in the BC Okanagan that produce ice wine:
Mission Hill (their 2006 Reserve Riesling Ice Wine won the International Wine Challenge in London in Sept 08 as the Worlds Top Ice Wine)
Quail’s Gate (their 2006 Reisling Ice Wine won a Bronze Medal – Canadian Wine Awards 2007)
Gray Monk Estate Winery (Kerner ice wine – a white grape)
Summerhill Estate Winery (Pinot noir, zweigelt, chardonnay, and riesling ice wines)

And last but not least, every January, there is an Ice Wine Festival at Sun Peaks Resort in the Okanagan! The next festival will be January 13 – 18, 2009. You can try a wide range of ice wines, together with learning about ice wines, join in some wine dinners, and if you have any energy left, go skiing. You can contact Sun Peaks Resort at 1-800-807-3257 about the Ice Wine Festival, or go to the Ice Wine Festival website http://www.owfs.com/festivals/winter_festival.html

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!