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Ice wine and mild temperatures

The temperature must be -8°C to harvest ice wine
The temperature must be -8°C to harvest ice wine

Cheryl Santa Maria, Staff writer

March 24, 2012 — Milder-than-usual temperatures have slowed ice wine production in Niagara's wine country.

Ontario's milder-than-usual winter has had an impact on dozens of industries across the province, from maple syrup production - which is down - to golf and country clubs, which have opened their doors earlier than usual.

Over in Niagara wine country, ice wine production has slowed.

The region has the perfect climatic conditions for creating ice wine due to its proximity to the Great Lakes and the Niagara escarpment - but the temperature has to be just right. When it is, the grapes will freeze naturally, after wine producers bring them out of dormency.

"Ice wine is the most heavily-regulated alcoholic product in Canada," says Austin Shynal of Stratus Vineyards. "The temperature must be -8°C upon harvest, and we usually wait between 1 and 3 days before we pick."

This year, the average daily highs recorded at Toronto Pearson International Airport were 10.8°C in November, 1.9°C in January and 3.1°C in February - that's well above seasonal, and not good news for local ice wine producers.

While Stratus was able to pull its grapes off the vines before extreme mild temperatures set in, the season's yield looks less than promising.

"Production has been down across the region for the past few years," Shynal says, "but this is a year that would really make you nervous if you predicated a good portion of your business on ice wine."

Find out what's to come in the months ahead by visiting the 2012 Spring Outlook.

Photo courtesy: Dominic Rivard

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