The sweetness of ice wine may make it easy to sip, but actually making the stuff is a grueling process. Unlike other varietals, the harvest of ice wine grapes alone requires Herculean endurance. Reporting for Reuters, Atsuko Kitayama covered one particular harvest of Gewurztraminer grapes for Malivoire winery, which required volunteers to pick grapes at night in 14 degrees Fahrenheit weather.
Perhaps all this is not surprising given the definition of ice wine. According to Ontario provincial law, the ‘ice wine’ label can only be applied to “the grapes have been picked in temperatures no warmer than minus 8 degrees C (18 degrees Fahrenheit).” This means that the harvesting usually occurs “in the dead of night” and volunteers must decide on the fly whether they can join in picking grapes as they are often given very little notice.
For winemakers, a successful production of ice wine relies on a good harvest. Kitayama points out, “Even in the best years, yields are relatively small, making the juice at least four to five times more expensive than that used for table wines.”