Thursday, January 04, 2007
No Ice For Ice Wine
You can't make ice wine unless temperatures dip low enough for long enough. For vineyards in the northeastern United States and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula risking riesling, vidal and other grapes waiting for a freeze, it has just been too warm this winter.
The mild winter is bad news for lovers of the sweet dessert wine. Without temperatures in the mid-teens for several hours, wineries cannot harvest frozen grapes and produce ice wine. By freezing over ripe grapes, sweet flavors are concentrated and produce an amazing wine.
Most grapes are harvested in September and October, but grapes earmarked for ice wine are left on the vine until December. Often crews are called out to harvest the precious grapes in the early morning hours before temperatures rise with the sun. In extreme situations, grapes can be left on vines until late January. The yield declines as time goes by as grapes are lost.
Vineyards walk a thin balancing act. The longer grapes stay on vines the more likely they are to become meals for deer, birds and other animals. Warm or wet weather can cause the grapes to rot. Rows of vines produce a limited number of half bottles.
Some vineyards are giving up on producing an ice wine during 2006 and have picked the remaining grapes to make sweet late harvest wines. While it cannot be called ice wine, some vineyards in the U.S. use an artificial method, picking grapes and then freezing them before crushing the grapes.
With all of the problems and the growing demand for ice wine, you can expect prices to skyrocket for the 2006 vintage.