Late Harvest and Icewine are not just sought after because they are rare, they are coveted and revered because of the intense flavours they bring to the wine drinking experience. Like an explosion of ambrosia in the mouth, these dessert wines deliver aromas and tastes you will never forget.
Generally enjoyed with or as dessert, this liquid art form appeals to people who enjoy special flavours and experiences.
Icewine is a unique dessert wine, distinct from Late Harvest wines. How Icewine is made, and what can be called Icewine is defined in the VQA standards.*
*The Vintners Quality Alliance is Canada's system of wine standards, providing winemakers with growing and wine production regulations for producing fine wines from Canada's finest grapes.
According to VQA, Icewine is a wine made from vitis vinifera grapes or Vidal grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine. These grapes are then harvested and pressed while the air temperature remains at or below -8º Celsius. In most cases, we wait for two consecutive nights of weather where the temperature remains at or below -10º to -12º Celsius. This ensures that the Icewine will have the desired sugar levels to produce the best results. The Okanagan Valley is ideal for making Icewine. Our desert climate provides a long, hot growing season to ripen the grapes, and very cold winters to freeze them on the vines.
One might think from the above description that the secret to Icewine is in the freezing conditions under which it is harvested and pressed. This is certainly a major contributor but is in fact really the culmination of a very long and involved process. The reason Icewine is such an expensive and rare delicacy is due to the fact that at any given time the entire crop is in danger of being lost. As the grapes are not harvested until December, January or February, over time natural elements such as rain, snow, mold and mildew reduce the annual yield. Despite protective netting, natural predators such as birds, rabbits, deer and even bears, take their toll on the crop reducing it even further. When the magical night finally arrives the producer may have as little as five to ten per cent of a normal yield to work with in any given year.
Another contributing factor is the actual amount of juice produced. A normal harvest of table wine yields approximately 700 litres of juice per tonne of grapes. In contrast, the grapes for Icewine must be picked and pressed in mid-winter when frozen solid, and generally only yield between 250 to 300 litres of intensely flavoured juice per tonne of grapes.
To earn the VQA designation, an independent tasting panel made up of top industry experts must also approve each vintage of Icewine. As a result, Canada is now recognized as the world's leading producer of Icewine. Similar to Champagne only being produced in a specific region in France, real Icewine can only be produced in 3 countries around the world (Canada, Germany and Austria). Canada is lucky enough to be one of the few countries where the unique conditions exist to produce this rare wine.
Calona Vineyards is consistently one of the top producers of VQA designated Icewines. Winning top awards at the most prestigious international wine competitions around the world, we are pleased to be able to bring this treasure to you.