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.