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Canadian Icewine Gets a Boost in the U.S.  (April 2, 2003)

There are two ways to make Icewine: the legitimate way – by allowing grapes to freeze on the vine – and the sneaky way, harvesting grapes and then putting them in a commercial freezer. The second way is known as cryoextraction, a technique used in Europe to produce sweet wines in years when conditions are not right to create the "noble rot" that desiccates and concentrates grape sugars.

In Canada, under VQA regulations, Icewine can only be made from grapes that are left to freeze on the vine and are pressed in their frozen state. In order for grapes to freeze, temperatures have to drop to –8° Celsius for a sustained period. To freeze grapes off the vine is, of course, less risky: bad weather and birds can ruin the crop left on the vine until December or January.

Until now, winemakers in the United States were under no such restrictions, and many of the products labelled as Icewine from New York and Washington states were produced by artificial freezing.

Now the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has ruled that the term "Icewine" can only be used for wines made from grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine. One California winery, Bonny Doon, makes no secret of the way they make their dessert wine. Winemaker Randall Grahm produces a "refrigerator" wine called Vin de Glace – so presumably he will be allowed to continue with this label, since the term "Icewine" does not appear.

The effect of this new BATF regulation will open up new markets for Canadian Icewine south of the border, as our winemakers will not have to compete against cheaper, non-authentic brands.

 

 

 

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