2020 Ontario icewine likely to be in high demand, thanks to COVID-19

Ontario icewine
Ontario icewine
2020 Ontario icewine bottles are expected to be in high demand moving forward, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Via @Iniskillin

Wine makers recorded the smallest amount of grapes designated for making Ontario icewine, likely to result in a high demand for 2020 bottles.

Icewine is a dessert wine produced from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine before being harvested.

Frozen grapes result in more concentrated juice which result in a smaller amount of more concentrated and extremely sweet wine.

Icewines are frozen before fermentation, resulting in a refreshing sweetness balanced by high acidity.

Icewine production requires precise timing and is labour intensive, making icewines more expensive than its table wine counterparts.

Canada is the largest producer of icewines in the world, making more icewine than all the other countries put together.

The next largest icewine producer is Germany.

A brief history of Icewine in Canada

Icewine was first produced in Canada in 1972 by Walter Hainle in Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Hainle harvested the grapes early because of an unexpected frost, and ended up selling the wine in 1978.

A number of Ontario wineries unsuccessfully tried to create icewine in 1983, but lost their crops to wildlife.

It wasn’t until the following year that Inniskillin was able to produce enough for commercial purposes, and is credited as being Canada’s first icewine.

Icewine quickly gained popularity in Canada, and more wineries started making icewine.

Canadian icewine gained international recognition in 1989 when Iniskillins 1989 Vidal icewine was given the Grand Prix d’Honneur at the 1991 Vine Expo.

The Niagara Peninsula, which consistently experiences below freezing temperatures, has become the world’s largest icewine producer, accounting for more than 90% of all icewine produced in Canada.

2020 Ontario icewine bottles expected to be in high demand

VQA Ontario, the provincial wine regulator, reported that only 1,000 tones of grapes were produced this year, down from 6,000 tones in 2019.

VQA Ontario has been regulating icewine harvests since 2000, and this year’s harvest is a new record low.

“A combination of high quality and limited quantity will likely make 2020 wines in high demand,” VQA Ontario’s executive director Laurie Macdonald told the Canadian Press.

Wineries haven’t harvested grapes for 2020 icewines just yet, as they are waiting for temperatures to drop below -8°C.

Wine growing regions across Ontario have experienced excellent conditions, with VQA Ontario expecting the 2020 vintage to be of exceptionally high quality.

A number of 2020 table wines are already available, with wineries choosing to harvest the grapes instead of leaving them on the vine.

According to the Winery Marketing Association of Ontario‘s public relations director Magdalena Kaiser, wineries have chosen to harvest the grapes already to make table wine.

Ontario icewines are primarily purchased by foreign tourists, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, wine exports have been adversely affected.

“Because of COVID and people not travelling to the country, sales have been in decline,” Kaiser told the Canadian Press. “There have been challenges around icewine this year so wineries are not necessarily needing to make as much as they would have.”

Ontario Craft Wineries president Richard Linley said that sales from the LCBO and grocery stores have been critical, with cellar door and restaurant sales being negatively impacted by COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“Ontario VQA wineries were hurting pre-pandemic and COVID-19 has made things much worse,” Linely told the Canadian Press.


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