In British Columbia, Icewine is a special category of BC VQA wine. In general terms, BC Icewine is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Because only the water in grapes freezes, not the grape sugars, pressing the frozen grapes results in a smaller amount of much sweeter juice and subsequently, very sweet “dessert-style” wines. Because of the labour and risk involved in making a relatively small amount of wine, Icewines tend to be more expensive than regular table wines.
Because all Icewine in BC is a special category of BC VQA wine, all BC Icewines must first pass through the BC VQA taste assessment process before they can be marketed as Icewine. However, the making of Icewine is highly regulated in BC in order to protect the integrity of the process and the “Icewine” term. Wineries wishing to make Icewine in BC must first register with the BCWA and indicate their intention to make Icewine before the annual harvest commences. Having registered their intention, registered wineries must subsequently advise the BCWA when they start harvesting any grapes intended for use in Icewine. The grapes must be frozen and the ambient air temperature must be -8° C or lower at the time of harvest. In addition to these basic requirements, producers must also ensure that:
- Only prescribed vitis vinifera or Vidal Blanc grape varieties are used in the wine. These grapes must have been grown within a geographical area designated by a prescribed geographic indicator other than “British Columbia” (such as the Okanagan Valley) and the grapes must be pressed within that same geographical area;
- The picked grapes are transported by the most direct route from picking to pressing and that the grapes are then pressed in a continuous process while they are still frozen;
- The Brix level of any grape juice, or grape must, used to make the wine is not less than 32.0° Brix after each pressing (measured after transfer to the fermentation vessel), and achieves an average of at least 35.0° Brix (when combined in the fermentation vessel);
- The wine is not processed using any artificial method of concentrating the sugar content of fresh grapes, grape juice, grape must or wine (such as artificial refrigeration at temperatures below -4°C). Tank cooling at temperatures below -4° C is also prohibited during fermentation and cold stabilization prior to bottling;
- The residual sugars present in the wine at the time of bottling are not less than 100 grams per litre and that residual sugar and alcohol must come only from the natural sugar in the grapes. “Chaptalization” of Icewine is not permitted.