Icewine Harvest is ON!

It’s official — the plunging temperatures of the last week have created ideal conditions to begin picking grapes for this season’s Icewine harvest. Growers across Niagara have begun picking grapes frozen on the vine and will soon press the juice that produces Ontario’s and Canada’s premier Icewine.
 “Grape growers in Ontario are expecting to begin harvesting Icewine grapes this week as temperatures have dropped well below the required minus 8 degrees Celsius. Approximately 3,600 tonnes have been left hanging in the province for Icewine, which may produce between 540,000 and 576,000 litres of Icewine,” said Bill George, Chair, Grape Growers of Ontario. 
About 90 per cent of the grapes grown in Ontario are used for winemaking, including about 7% destined for Icewine production. At wineries like Inniskillin — famous for it’s award winning icewine, grapes are left are left on the vine and netted in the fall when the grapes are ripening to protect them until winter.  
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Vidal grapes are left on the vine to concentrate throughout the autumn. Protected by netting, they’ll remain there until temperatures drop to -8 degrees for 4 consecutive days.

We had the chance to walk the vineyards at Inniskillin in December. According to their team, before harvest, the grapes dehydrate which concentrates the juices, increases the natural sugar in the fruit and develops the complex flavours of Icewine. The temperature must be a sustained minus 8 degrees celsius or lower before the grapes can be harvested and then they are pressed immediately while still frozen. Once produced, there is a world of possibilities for icewine — and more and more, there is a world of variety too. Today, you can find both red and white icewines, as well as sparkling and still varieties, from cool-climate loving varietals like vidal, reisling and cab franc. Check out our Wines of Local series to discover some of our favorites — including one from Prince Edward County! Want the ultimate icewine experience? Check out the Niagara Icewine Festival circuit all January long. From bonfires to harvests to live jazz, there’s something for everyone during Icewine season!
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