The recent cold snap may have been harsh for residents, but icewine makers in the Okanagan are celebrating the negative temperatures.
Grapes that are picked for icewine must be frozen before coming off the vines and once the ideal subzero temperature sets in, crews have mere hours to harvest the fruit.
Producing icewine is delicate and risky, and keeping the grapes from defrosting is one of the main concerns, according to Grizzli Winery’s sales coordinator Breanna Nathorst.
“It has to be -8 C minimum but we like to wait until about -10 C because you get more concentrated fruit flavours when you wait a little bit longer,” Nathorst said.
Once crews harvest the grapes, they’re kept outside in large bins. Then the fruit is pressed outdoors in movable presses which are moved to a location that has coldest temperatures.
Nathorst added one bottle of white icewine has approximately 30 to 35 pounds of grapes, and a bottle of red icewine has about 50 to 55 pounds.
“White icewines are more common and red icewines are a lot more rare, which is why they’re also more expensive,” she said.
“The reason for that is because you’re getting a lot more flavour in there, and they’re riskier to produce because we wait until it’s -14 C before we pick the grapes.”
In general, Nathorst said icewine is riskier and takes a bit longer to produce.
“For table wine, we harvest them in the fall. That’s when you see the vineyards full and beautiful and it’s usually in October that we harvest the grapes. It takes about 10 to 12 pounds of table grapes to make a 715 millilitre of wine.”
“With icewine, we’re monitoring the temperature, making sure it’s cold enough. And if the temperature goes warmer than the minimum -8 C, you could lose your crop. If they do thaw, that’d be a late harvest wine. It’d be a sweeter wine, but it’s not icewine.”
Andrea Sorestad leads tours at Grizzli Winery and she said once the juice is extracted from the grapes, it’s all moved into fermentation tanks.
“That’s when the yeast is added, and that process takes four to six weeks,” Sorestad said.
“It’s very long and slow, and that’s because the icewine is super concentrated with sugars and it’s hard to break down so it takes a while.”
She added that fermenting table wine only takes about ten to 12 days.
Grizzli Winery will be hosting its first annual icewine festival to celebrate wine and of course, icewine. The festival also coincides with the Lunar New Year.
There will be an outdoor fire, Chinese calligraphers and a chance to taste the winery’s award-winning icewines.
READ MORE: Icewine harvesting underway in Okanagan