Icewine flavours sealed with a shiver

Once the grapes are plucked, the extraction has to be quick so the juice is of the sweetest quality.

Picking wine grapes in the wee small hours. The temperature must not rise above -8 C.

Bundled up in parkas and scarves, hundreds of Okanaganites trundled into area vineyards this week for the first wave of the annual ice wine grape harvest.

“This was an early harvest for ice wine, which is good because the grapes are healthy and clean,” said Cedar Creek winemaker Taylor Whelan.

Cedar Creek, like many wineries, doesn’t always harvest for ice wine due to everything from grape quality to weather.

“It didn’t get cold enough, last year — it has to be -8 C or lower to pick for ice wine, and that temperature didn’t hit in time to get the grapes off,” he said, explaining the fruit stayed on the vine for too long and deteriorated in quality.

In addition to being in good shape this year, there was also a good volume of grapes, which is important because so little comes out of a pressed ice-wine grape.

Ice wine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. Once they’re plucked, the extraction has to be quick so the juice is of the sweetest quality. It also has to reach quality standards including 35 brix of sugar to be called true Icewine.

Laura Kittmer, media relations manager for the B.C. wine institute, said that while there has been a flurry of activity in area vineyards, there’s going to be a lot more to come.

“Just over half of the total amount of grapes registered for Icewine this year have been picked, so there should be more picking to come,” she said, adding that it could be spread over this weekend, if the forecast pans out, and later in the year.

The last ice wine grape harvest, for example, started on Nov. 25, 2015 and more pickings occurred again in the New Year.

Kittmer said there are also more growers registered with the BC Wine Authority than last year.

Areas where the harvest occurred include Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, Naramata, Ok Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos.