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With cold temperatures arriving, Okanagan wineries eyeing ice wine harvest

Pickers collecting frozen grapes in darkness during the Okanagan’s ice wine harvest in 2015. Global News

Environment Canada is calling for sub-zero temperatures throughout the Okanagan this week, with the mercury falling to -10 C Wednesday overnight.

For Thursday, Environment Canada is calling for daytime highs of +1 to -3 with an overnight low of -13. For Friday and Saturday, the projected temperatures are highs of -7 with the lows of -13.

In other words, perfect temperatures for the region’s annual ice wine harvest.

READ MORE: Cold snap good news for Okanagan winemakers

Summerhill winemaker Michael Alexander says temperatures have to be at least -8 in order to pick frozen grapes destined to become ice wine.

“It may not get cold enough [Wednesday night] for the grapes to freeze,” said Alexander, “but with a high of -2 during [Thursday] and a low of -12, I have no doubt we’ll be putting a lot of calls in once we hit -8.”
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Those calls will be to grape pickers, with Alexander estimating Summerhill alone will be needing 50 to 60 people to pick approximately 50 to 60 tonnes at six vineyards.

“It really depends on how long it stays cold,” said Alexander.

“There’s been times in the past where it’s warmed up above -8 and we had to call off the pick, even though we had pickers there and the grapes are still frozen.

“But if we get enough pickers, we can probably get it off in four or five hours.”

Click to play video: 'Ice Wine Harvest' Ice Wine Harvest
Ice Wine Harvest – Dec 7, 2016

Notably, the 2018 ice wine harvest didn’t happen until early February in 2019.

Alexander said the annual harvest occurs roughly in early December, “but this is not out of the ordinary; maybe a week early.

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“And we’re happy we’re getting the temperatures now instead of February.”

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