The wine won’t be ready for Christmas, but grape growers picked the first grapes for this year’s ice wine harvest in the early hours of December 17 as temperatures fell below -10° Celsius at sites in Kelowna, Summerland and Okanagan Falls.
By law, temperatures must reach -8° Celsius to allow the frozen grapes to be picked and crushed for the sweet dessert wine.
Growers picked 8 tonnes, according to Wine Growers BC, the first harvest of what will be one of the smallest ice wine vintages in recent history.
Just four wineries are have registered their intention with the BC Wine Authority to pick grapes for ice wine this year. This is down from 12 last year and a high of 31 in 2012.
This year’s harvest is estimated at 80 tonnes, but tonnage shrinks the later in the season harvest occurs. Wineries estimated a harvest of 300 tonnes last year, but the actual harvest was less than 75 tonnes.
While ice wine production will be lower this year, late harvest wines are on the rise.
Wine Growers BC reports that 11 wineries have registered to produce ice wine’s more affordable cousin. They’ve set aside 101 tonnes of grapes for the wine, also a sweet, dessert-style beverage redolent of the flavours of the weather-whipped fruit used to make it. To date, 25 tonnes have been harvested.