Anthony Gismondi on Wine
Thursday, February 18 2021

It's icewine season

By: Geoffrey Moss MW
We take a closer look at the late icewine harvests in Niagara and the Okanagan

Canada only just finished its 2020 vintage over the past month after successful icewine harvests on both sides of the country.

Even though the frozen grapes were harvested in 2021, they are still classified as part of the 2020 vintage.

Anthony caught up with Inniskillin's head winemaker Bruce Nicholson on BC Food & Wine Radio to discuss the Niagara harvest, which wrapped up during the last week of January. Yields may be down, but there is no shortage of enthusiasm for the 2020 vintage across the board. You can see just how difficult an icewine harvest can be in the video below, filmed in Niagara in 2019.

In the Okanagan, increasingly moderate temperatures during winter months may be ideal for snowbirds, but it’s shortening the window in which winemakers can pick icewine. And it’s now far from a guarantee.

At Nk’Mip, there was some discussion about whether to scrap their icewine plans after a warm January. Their patience paid off, though, with temperatures plummeting below -8°C on February 10th. In fact, early forecasts called for temperatures of -17°C, which would excessively concentrate sugars and minimize yields. Fortunately, temperatures levelled off at -11°C, and a 60+ person crew finished the harvest in just over an hour.

According to winemaker Justin Hall, it’s a high-quality icewine vintage with pristine fruit character. His pressed riesling juice reached 40° Brix (or 470 g/L residual sugar), with retained acidity to keep it all in balance. But, as he looks forward to future vintages, he realizes there may come a time when he needs to pick icewine from one of Nk’Mip’s higher elevation vineyards to reach the required temperatures.

We have included notes for some of the top icewines that we’ve tasted recently. And don’t feel like you need to finish the bottle in one sitting. Once opened, icewine will keep for weeks  just be sure to store it in your fridge. Plus, you can make spectacular use of icewine in the kitchen, as you’ll see in our video with Inniskillin’s Chef Tim Mackiddie.

Further viewing:

Icewine - A Chef's Secret Ingredient with Chef  Tim Mackiddie - includes one of Mackiddie's icewine recipes

Canada is not too cold for wine after all: How icewine established Canada as a fine winegrowing region

Listen: Podcast - Anthony Gismondi interviews Inniskillin's Bruce Nicholson February 4, 2021 (14 minutes long - starting at 32:34)

Written By:
Geoffrey Moss MW
Geoffrey Moss MW

Geoffrey Moss MW, a wine reviewer/critic and contributor at Gismondi on Wine, earned his Master of Wine in August 2020. Born in Ontario, with a degree from McGill University in Political Science, Moss' resume includes working for premium brands, including with Don Triggs and family at Culmina Estate Winery, and then as part of the team for the ambitious, 100-million-dollar Phantom Creek Estates project, seeing its brand and winery emerge from scratch to full realization. Moss opened Lithica Wine Marketing in 2019. He runs his wine consulting business from Penticton, British Columbia, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley.