Excellent Outlook for Ice Wine in Ontario

Outstanding quality anticipated despite lower quantity

by Hudson Cattell
ontario ice wine 2012 2013
The ice wine harvest for grapes grown in Ontario during 2012 didn't occur until 2013. Photo: Wine Country Ontario
Vineland, Ontario, Canada—Everyone in Ontario agrees that the grape harvest in 2012 was outstanding, some are even calling it the best in Ontario’s grapegrowing history. The same prediction is being made for the ice wine harvest.

Grapes for making ice wine must be picked when the temperature is below -8ºC (17.6ºF), and it is very unusual for the harvest to be delayed beyond Jan. 1. Since the first grapes were not harvested until Jan. 2, and the vintage date is the date when the grapes are picked, the ice wine now being produced will be labeled from vintage of 2013.

Ontario’s 2013 ice wine harvest took place during two time periods: A few wineries with vineyards at the top of the Niagara escarpment were able to harvest Jan. 1-3, when temperatures dipped to -9ºC (15.8ºF). In some vineyards, temperatures were recorded as low as -13ºC (8.6ºF). Farther down the escarpment and in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, temperatures remained above the -8º upper limit established by the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), and picking there had to be delayed.

The second harvesting opportunity came Jan. 13, when temperatures dropped as low as -15ºC (5ºF). For two and a half days, temperatures remained below the -8º threshold, and harvest took place both during the day (which is also unusual) and at night. In between the two harvest periods it rained, and the temperatures climbed as high as 15ºC (59ºF). The result was a loss in volume of 20% or more, but there was no effect on the quality of the grapes, which remained high.

Final figures for this year’s ice wine harvest in Ontario were 5,500 tons netted, and 61 growers and wineries were registered for ice wine. Brix levels reached 40º in many vineyards (VQA regulations state that the harvest in aggregate can be no less than 35º Brix).

Brian Schmidt, winemaker at Vineland Estates Winery and VQA chair, told Wines & Vines: “It’s going to be a great year. The grapes have incredibly concentrated flavors.”

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