Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold Is Gold for Icewine Makers

By Julianna Hayes

Christmas came early for Okanagan winemakers when an unseasonal cold snap sent temperatures plummeting over the weekend allowing for the harvest of the region's priceless icewine grapes.

Vintners from north to south in the Valley were able to bring in a large quantity of the crop, which needs consistent temperatures of -8 C or less to get the Vintner's Quality Alliance stamp of approval.

Mission Hill Family Estate's chief winemaker John Simes noted that the winter blast this early has been fairly unusual this decade and that it is more common to have to wait until January/February for it to reach sufficiently cold levels to pick the icewine grapes.

He said the earliness of the harvest has resulted in fruit that is in excellent condition. Of note, a recent similar early harvest was in November 2006, which also produced superior Icewine grapes, as exemplified in the honour bestowed on Mission Hill’s 2006 Riesling Icewine that was awarded the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Trophy for the World’s Top Icewine at Europe’s major wine competition this fall.

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