Despite an early frost at the end of October, the winter’s warm weather has shrivelled the hopes of icewine makers.
Just one winery of the 12 wineries that registered an intention with the BC Wine Authority to pick grapes for icewine this year has followed through.
According to the BC Wine Institute, Bench 1775 picked two tonnes of Riesling in Summerland on December 23, the first and only harvest of the season so far.
Provincial regulations require icewine grapes freeze “naturally on the vine while the air temperature is -8°C or lower, and be pressed in a continuous process while the grapes are still frozen.” Press juice must also register a sweetness level of 32 degrees Brix.
While the sugar levels increase as the grapes hang on the vine and dry out, the berries also risk being snapped up by hungry birds and other critters. The later the harvest, the fewer grapes available to harvest.
A shortfall in grapes may not be a bad thing this year, however. COVID-19 has meant fewer tourists, a primary market for producers. In Ontario, producers cut back dramatically, with registered harvest intentions checking in at less than a third of usual. According to some reports, this will be Ontario’s smallest icewine harvest in 20 years.
With just two tonnes harvested to date, BC is on track for an even greater shortfall versus last year’s 205 tonnes, itself the smallest harvest in at least 15 years.
A warm winter hasn’t only meant problems for icewine.
Vancouver Island maple syrup producers have also failed to see temperatures cold enough to trigger sap flows. Some producers speculate that this year could be a replay of 2010, when Mother Nature also gave producers a year off.