Most of the wineries we have visited over the past few days produce a vin de glace, an Icewine. The method is slightly different than those Icewines produced in Ontario. In Quebec, the snowfall can accumulate and bury the vines. Finding the grapes would be a challenge. In order to meet this challenge, wine growers cut the grape clusters after the vines become dormant, usually after the first killing frost. The grapes are placed in nets hanging above the vines. Then for the next several days, weeks or months, the grapes hang in the nets. Nature determines how long. The grapes are brought to the winery when the temperatures drop to -8ºC or lower.
In Ontario the grapes remain on the vines when the vines go dormant. They are harvested off the vines when the temperatures reach -8ºC or lower. Ontario doesn’t get the snowfall on their Icewine vineyards like the vineyards in Quebec receive. There is some debate between growers and winemakers about Quebec’s practice of cutting the grapes and placing them in nets above the vine. Detractors claim that there is an exchange between the vine and the grapes and removing the grapes stops this exchange. Quebecers claim that once the vines become dormant, the exchange stops. Research seems to back up the stoppage of the exchange once the vines become dormant.
In Quebec wine growers would have a problem if they harvested Icewine grapes while the grapes are buried in snow. The first problem is where to find the grapes. This is not an easy task. The grapes are fragile and just removing the snow from around the vine could damage the grapes. The second issue is that the grapes are suppose to be brought to the winery after the temperature drops to at least a -8ºC. Grapes placed above the vines in nets can reach this temperature. Grapes covered in snow will not. The snow acts as a blanket.
Method not withstanding, taste the wines and decide for yourself. We were pleasantly surprised at the crispness of the Icewines. They have multiple aromatics and tastes and great acidity that cuts the sweetness. For those who enjoy Icewines, visit Quebec wineries for a Vin de Glace.