The Okanagan wine grape harvest is completed for 2017 and the grapes have been crushed to extract the juice soon to undergo fermentation. But not all grapes are harvested. Some are left on the vine to produce world-famous BC Icewine, a very sweet ‘dessert-style’ table wine.
As we mention in Chapter 21 of our book, icewine is a special category of BC VQA and its production is highly regulated in BC in order to protect the integrity of the process and the “Icewine” term. Wineries must be registered with the BC Wine Authority and meet the following requirements before being able to market their Icewine:
- Only prescribed vinifera or Vidal Blanc varietals are used, and must be grown and pressed within one of the defined five geographical wine regions of BC (such as the Okanagan Valley).
- Grapes must be picked frozen when the temperature is less than -8° C (17.6° F) and crushed while they are still frozen so the sugars are concentrated.
- This sweeter grape juice must achieve an average Brix level of 35.0° in the fermentation vessel. Degrees Brix is a measure of the sugar content of an aqueous solution such as grape juice.
- No artificial method of concentrating the sugar content is allowed (such as adding sugar or other artificial sweeteners, or using artificial refrigeration).
- The Icewine must pass through the BC VQA taste assessment process before it can be marketed as Icewine.
If you don’t mind being on call to work in the dark at temperatures below -8° C, then you are invited to leave your contact information with an icewine winery before November. According to a local vineyard manager, the vineyards need many pickers in short order to pick as much of the fall harvest left for icewine production as quickly as possible while the temperature is below -8°C. To add to the work load, bird netting must be removed just before the grapes are picked.
How should you drink Icewine? It should be chilled like any dessert wine (about 5-7°C), and served in 60 mL portions because it is so sweet. The dessert should be less sweet than the Icewine, so best to avoid pairing with cakes and chocolates in favour of strong cheeses, fruits and nuts.
As for spoilage, you don’t have to drink Icewine right away. It can be stored up to 10 years or longer, depending on your patience!
movingtokelowna.net blog HGP 10-22-17