TORONTO — The smallest ever recorded amount of Ontario grapes designated for icewine is likely to create a high demand for 2020 bottles of the super sweet treat.
VQA Ontario, the province’s wine regulator, reported just more than 1,000 tonnes of grapes registered for icewines this year, down from almost 6,000 tonnes last year.
It’s a record low since the agency began regulating the icewine harvest 20 years ago, VQA Ontario said.
“A combination of high quality and limited quantity will likely make 2020 wines in high demand,” said the agency’s executive director Laurie Macdonald.
While a few 2020 table wines have already been released, the 2020 icewines should be available around mid-2021, Macdonald said.
The grapes for 2020 icewines have not been harvested yet, as wineries leave them on the vine to be harvested when the temperature drops below -8 C.
The regulator’s report said the year was “remarkable” for weather and wine in Ontario, with most wine-growing regions experienced excellent conditions.
Macdonald said the 2020 vintage is expected to produce high-quality wines.
Wineries are choosing to make table wine, instead of leaving grapes on the vine to make icewine, said Magdalena Kaiser, public relations director of the Winery Marketing Association of Ontario.
The pandemic has affected wine export in all international markets, said Kaiser.
Ontario icewines are mostly purchased by tourists travelling to Canada, she said.
“Because of COVID and people not travelling to the country, sales have been in decline,” Kaiser said.
“There have been challenges around icewine this year so wineries are not necessarily needing to make as much as they would have.”
Icewine producers would still have supply from previous years, she said.
“This has been a very challenging year for small and medium-sized VQA wineries,” said Richard Linley, president of Ontario Craft Wineries.
Linley said that while LCBO and grocery stores have been critical for sales, cellar door and restaurant sales are down.
“Ontario VQA wineries were hurting pre-pandemic and COVID-19 has made things much worse,” he said, warning that some wineries may not survive the winter.