Icewine: Disappointing harvest expected this year in Ontario

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Icewine: disappointing harvests expected this year in Ontario

According to the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario (WMAO), Ontario produces 90% of icewine in Canada. (File photo)

Temperature fluctuations this winter and last year's frost have undermined icewine harvests this season, say several Ontario producers.

Aaron Dobbin, president of Wine Growers of Ontario, does not expect large harvests this year.

The reason: changing weather conditions during the ;winter.

“Volatility is the biggest challenge right now with climate change.

—Aaron Dobbin, President, Wine Growers of Ontario

He adds that sudden frosts in April or May can destroy newly emerged buds. This is a big problem for the industry, he says.

Jamie Slingerland of Pillitteri Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake says he had to postpone the harvest this winter in expectation of colder weather, so much of the grapes were picked only in early February.

Normally, the grapes are harvested in early January, he says, explaining that warm spells can cause the fruit to dehydrate and rot.

“It's been a bad winter for icewine. ”

— Jamie Slingerland, Director of Viniculture, Pillitteri Vineyard

He adds that the vineyard had already started the season with reduced harvests following the January 2022 frost .

According to the stipulations of the provincial wine regulatory organization, V-Q-A Ontario, grapes for Icewine cannot be picked if the temperature is above -8°C.

Dan Speck, president of Henry of Pelham Winery in St. Catharines, had decided not to produce icewine this winter altogether, due to weather issues and deteriorating market conditions over the past few years, he said.

Niagara-on-the-Lake winemaker Klaus Reif also suspended icewine production this winter, after losing 40% of his grapes to due to freezes in 2021 and 2022.

Mr. Speck remains optimistic about the future of the industry, saying warming temperatures in Canada may reduce the amount produced, but not lead to the end of production.

M. Reif is more ambivalent. It's ok for now. But who knows what will happen in 50 years? he says.

With information from La Presse canadienne

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