Good icewine harvest in Canada, but German yields fall

Canada has seen average-to-good yields of its icewine harvest despite a warmer ‘el Niño’ winter, but Germany is set to see smaller quantities.

Grape picking at the Pilliterri Estate Winery

Reports that this winter was likely to be one of the warmest winters on record for Canada has not significantly impacted Ontario’s icewine producers, it appears. Although official figures were not yet in, The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario told db that producers had not been put off by the potential warm weather to reduce the amount of grapes they left on the vine.

“Producers register with the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) in the fall for how much icewine they expect to producer and the numbers were average. Our understanding is that there are some slight reductions in yield but each producer may have some variances on this,” a spokesman said.

Canadian winery Pilliterri Estates Winery, which distributes in the UK, said this year’s harvest was larger than in 2014, as the winery had left a greater number of grapes on the vine to compensate for potential losses due to the anticipated warmer weather.

“As it turns out the temps dropped earlier than expected and the extra grapes on the wine resulted in a slightly larger than expected harvest,” marketing manager Jeff Letvenuk told db. “There was some concern that yields would be a bit lower but the cold snap came at the right time.”

“The quality of the grapes were also quite good,” Letvenuk added.

The warmer weather in Ontario before Christmas broke in early January and with temperatures reaching below -8 degrees, wine growers were able to complete the main harvest over two days.

German eiswine producers are also anticipating a good season, after seeing “perfect conditions” last week, but yields are likely to be sporadic as warmer weather in November and December prompted many producers to pick grapes as late harvest Beerenauslese, or discard them entirely. With yields varying from 50 – 300 litres per estate, only relatively small quantities could be brought in, Wines of Germany confirmed.

The German Wine Institute (DWI) noted that estates in almost all German wine regions were able to harvest grapes – mainly Riesling, Silvaner and Spaetburgunder – on 18 and 19 January, as temperatures plummeted to -11 degrees. “The wait for the deep freeze was worth it after all,” they said.

The colder temperatures are likely to see high concentration of sugar content in the wine, it added.

UK discounter Lidl reported strong sales of its Canadian icewine over the Christmas period, with buyer Ben Hulme called it one of its “stars”.

“It was one of our best-selling wines over Christmas, a real highlight for us,” he said. “We’d love to do more icewine – it went very well and we can’t ignore that. If we didn’t do it again, our customers would look for it and wonder why not.”


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