01.06.2012  
 

Eastern Ice Wine a 2012 Vintage

Most frozen grapes were picked in New Year

 
by Linda Jones McKee and Hudson Cattell
 
ice wine
 
Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn harvested Riesling for ice wine Jan. 3 in Traverse City, Mich.
Lancaster, Pa.—Skiers in the East and winemakers planning to make ice wine this winter had one thing in common: Both groups had been waiting for the temperature to drop below freezing levels. However, while skiers wanted snow to fall, winemakers just needed the thermometer to drop to below 18°F for several days—long enough to freeze the grapes they had left hanging on the vine.

Once grapes have been subjected to the deep freeze, they are pressed to release the concentrated, sweet juice that will be fermented into the precious dessert wine known as ice wine. In both the United States and Canada, a wine designated as “ice wine” must be made from grapes that were frozen naturally on the vine.

This winter’s warm temperatures delayed the ice wine harvest from Michigan to Eastern Canada until 2012, but earlier this week, winter finally arrived and growers were able to pick the last of their grapes. Steve Di Francesco, winemaker at 14,000-case Knapp Winery in Romulus, N.Y., told Wines & Vines that workers picked 4 tons of Vidal on Jan. 3 and finished pressing the grapes in two days.

According to Di Francesco, “Two years ago, (2010) the weather was right for ice wine, and we had good grapes. This year was more difficult. We had drought during the summer and then rain in the fall, with lots of disease pressure. We left twice as many grapes hanging for ice wine, but the yield was half what it was in the past. Some of the grapes rotted, others were eaten by the birds. But when I tasted the juice, it tastes OK.”

Knapp Winery sold its 2010 ice wine for $24.95 per 375ml bottle and described it as having “rich flavors of honey, dried apricot, mandarin orange and a hint of caramel.” The 2012 ice wine will probably finish fermentation in April for release in late fall.

Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery in Cedar, Mich., also harvested ice wine grapes Jan. 3. The cellar and tasting room crew picked 1.5 tons of Pinot Grigio while the temperature registered about 15°F. Most wineries make ice wine from either Riesling or Vidal grapes, but 8,500-case Bel Lago has used Pinot Grigio for several vintages of ice wine. The Pinot Grigio grapes give ice wine flavors of baked pear, mango, raisin, honey, caramel, brown sugar and figs. The winery plans to bottle approximately 60 cases of ice wine in late fall.

Eastern Canada harvest late but larger

Although there were three short periods of time in December when grapes for ice wine could have been harvested in Ontario and Nova Scotia, the first sustained cold period lasting more than 24 hours occurred in early January. Temperatures in Ontario dropped to between minus-15°C and minus-13°C (5° to 9°F) on Jan. 3 and 4, when most of the ice wine harvest took place. It is estimated that 3,400 tonnes (3,747 tons) of grapes for ice wine will be harvested this year, somewhat more than last year because of a rebound in the ice wine market.

With five acres of ice wine grapes, John Warner has the largest planting in Nova Scotia. He harvested 25 tons of Vidal on two nights, Dec. 24-25, as well as Jan. 4, when the temperature dropped to minus-11°C (12°F) and minus-12.5°C (10°F). “There was very little snow on the ground,” Warner told Wines & Vines. “This made machine-harvesting the frozen grapes much easier than our typical late December/early January ice wine harvest.” The 4,500 liters of ice wine juice he is producing will be sold to local Nova Scotia wineries. WinesVinesDATA lists 14 wineries in the province.

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