While we may be huddled around our fireplaces wishing it would warm up just a little bit in Niagara, the cold snap this week has been a blessing for area wineries.
The sub -8 Celcius temperature, which is what’s needed for icewine picking, provided ideal conditions for Ontario’s annual icewine grape harvest. Growers had been watching their thermometers closely and waiting for Mother Nature to deliver perfect temperatures to freeze grapes on the vine for Ontario’s authentic icewine production.
Niagara saw a small window of opportunity in December to pick icewine grapes but the bulk of the major icewine producers needed a few more days of harvesting to complete their harvests.
Grapes left on the vine for icewine are netted in the fall when the grapes are ripening to protect them until winter. 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 at -8C or lower before the grapes can be harvested and then they are pressed immediately while still frozen.
The harvest is 2012 set records not just in terms of yield, but also in terms of quality. “The superb 2012 grape crop has growers equally optimistic about the icewine vintage,” said Grape Growers of Ontario chair Bill George. About 5,000 tonnes of grapes are expected to be harvested for icewine, which will produce 750,000 to 800,000 litres of Ontario’s world-renowned specialty wine.
It is expected to be the largest crop of icewine grapes since the record-breaking harvest of 2007.
• Authentic Ontario icewine requires sustained temperatures of -8C or lower for harvest.
• There were 605,681 litres of icewine juice harvested in Ontario last year.
• About 5,000 tonnes of icewine grapes are expected to be harvested from the 2012 vintage, which may produce up to 800,000 litres of icewine.
• Prices for Ontario icewine range from $20 to over $200 for a 375 ml bottle.
• Icewine is most often made from Vidal grapes, but there are many selections using vinifera varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Riesling.
Our three WIN wines of the week are all icewines.
Stratus Riesling Icewine 2008
($40 for 200 ml, 92 points)
Penetrating aromas of sweet honey, lime, lemon, ripe apples, bees wax, mineral and hints of compoted tropical fruits.
It’s built on a backbone of racy acidity that shows on the palate, lifting the concentration of citrus flavours and leading to a long, vibrant finish.
A long life ahead for those with the patience to wait.
Tawse Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2011
($35 for 200 ml, 93 points)
An invigorating nose of strawberry compote, cherry-raspberry accents and touches of jammy black fruits that are persistent and inviting.
It explodes on the palate with supersweet and thick red fruits balanced by racy acidity all delivered on a long, clean finish. A nice subtle nutty taste just starting to emerge.
Hold some for the cellar, if you can.
Vineland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2011
($42 for 375 ml, 92 points)
This icewine achieved an amazing 234 g/l of residual sugar.
The aromas are thick and rich with compoted raspberry, black cherry, currants and just a whiff of blueberry chiming in.
It’s viscous and rich on the palate with bold and jammy red fruits that coat the mouth with decent acidity to provide some balance on the finish.
Altogether, a highly extracted, sweet icewine that deserves some love in the cellar.
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News. Previous reviews are archived under “Grapevine” tab on the Bullet News home page, under Wines in Niagara. Rick can be found on the web at www.winesinniagara.com.
Click here to visit the Wines in Niagara ARCHIVE, where Rick’s past stories and wine review’s can be found.