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The Icewine Debate Continues…

After my brief rant concluding that the new icewine DO in the Penedés was a crock of bureaucracy, I was contacted by David Furer, the original author of the article in Decanter, where the world was first introduced to the news. Evidently, he had a back and forth with Randy DuFour, Export Manager for Vincor Canada – a company with icewine in its blood, as it were – regarding the validity of the new Spanish DO. Published almost 100% in its entirety, we hope you take a moment to comment with your thoughts on its their discussion below. Let the debate begin!

Hi David:

I read your article in Decanter this morning…I can’t believe the Spanish gov’t/EU would allow this…what are the German/Austrian producers saying? I am going to stop wearing my Spanish football jersey in protest!

I hope you are well, let me know if you are ever in our neck of the woods, for some authentic wines!

Cheers,

Randy Dufour

Randy,

Thanks for the comments. No word yet from the German speakers but Gramona’s been making this for years only without a D.O. assignation. Then again, Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon had success with this for many years already. Based upon those from Randall and Jaime I’ve tasted I’m unsure if mechanical means of freezing grapes for ice wine is such a bad idea. It does ensure against the vagaries inclement weather can offer thereby allowing for less loss of crop, lower labor costs, and guaranteeing a steadier annual supply of consistent quality.

I’ve worked two ice wine harvests in Germany–one with crap grapes and one with stunning–and both were tough work. With Europe warming, harvests for these wines have steadily diminished, another reason to regulate an ‘artificial’ category.

Best-as from Texas,
David

So, by that rationale, if you cook a turkey in the microwave – it will be cooked, but will it taste the same as if you had put the bird in
the oven and cooked over a period of time? The molecular structure of the bird is the same…cooked…but there is an undeniable difference in taste.

Yes, I know they have been making it for awhile, but at least Randall had the good sense to not call it Icewine (legally protected name) and rather called it ‘vin de glaciere’. The Kiwis are employing the same methods but as of last year, are not allowed to call it icewine any more. Come on up here, we only use great quality grapes, consistently, but yes, still a tough job.

The promotion of Icewines/Canadian wines in the US is quite bleak. And outside or Inniskillin/Jackson-Triggs, almost non-existent. The National Export Committee is starting to look at opportunities to develop a strategy to promote the awareness and sales of the wines around the world and has identified a couple of core markets; in the US, Chicago has been identified as a good test market to try out and fine tune the strategy/tactics. Along with NY, CA and Florida, I see Texas as being a core market and we should be looking at this in the future. The challenge is that there are limited funds/resources and to be quite honest, a bit of dysfunctionality as a group when it comes to holding hands together and agreeing on strategies and tactics. That being said, how can I help?

Sorry for the long-winded dribble, but that new DO got me all fired up.

Have a great weekend,

Randy Dufour

Randy,

I get your argument but it doesn’t hold up simply because the proof is in the final product. As an aesthete I agree with you that the finest use a microwave oven offers is that of re-heating liquids and to a lesser degree solids, certainly not cooking them; the resultant flavors and textures are sub-par. However, based upon what I’ve tasted of Gramona and Bonny Doon I’ve no problem with their methods and think it’s a reasonable response to weather and market conditions; it doesn’t make financial sense that Randall set up shop in ON nor Jaime along the Mosel. The wines are credible, provide all the necessary info in an open fashion, and let the consumer decide.

While I’ve had many great CA ice wines I’ve also perceived greater levels of VA in them on the average than I have comparable wines from Germany (can’t speak to Austria as I haven’t tasted enough examples from it to form a reasonable opinion). The reasons for this were explained to me during my July ’09 visit, happening in part due to the later average harvest dates and something about osmotic pressure and yeast activity during fermentation which helps to create this problem. Again, it’s only my palate but I have tasted my way through hundreds of German and Canadian versions over the years and have noticed a difference. That said, fewer wines of this type are being made in Germany now then in the ’90s due to market pressures (German table wines are hotter now) and climate pressures (Germany’s ambient autumn temperatures are hotter now).

How did Randall referring his wines as ‘Vin de Glaciere’ sit with your Quebecois counterparts?!

From stormy Austin,
David

And the debate continues…

Of course there are poor quality authentic Icewines out there…just like there are bad Sherries, Ports, et al..yes these come from specified regions, but there is also a specified process to make these wines and if you do not want to follow the stated method, than you can’t call them by their protected name Brunello di Montalcino is not just about Sangiovese from a Montalcino, it is also about yields, and minimum aging requirements – and if you don’t follow the process/requirements, you can’t call it Brunello di Montalcino). There is a legal definition of the word Icewine (signed and ratified by Austrian, Canadian, German, US, et al gov’ts) and it should be followed and protected. It is not just a wine we are talking about, but a legally defined ‘process’, in order to
make the wine. We definitely need to do a blind tasting of authentic Icewines (ours) and your fakes! This is the same issue that we are having in China where they call anything Icewine and it deteriorates the name Icewine. Again, I am not against the process that these guys are doing – but don’t call it ICEWINE, I kind of like Cryoextraction Wine :)

Acidity is our hallmark and what we sell our Icewines on – what makes them unique vs other sweet wines from other regions. As for “yeast activity” it is controlled by the winemaker (there are no wild yeasts in Niagara in January!). To my knowledge, no wine judge or critic has ever faulted our Icewines with too much volatile acidity…not sure if you were tasting our wines, or ??

Don’t even get me started on Quebec, where they refer to their apple juice as frozen Apple wine (outside of Canada as they can’t refer to it as wine in Canada).

Anyways, let’s set up a tasting one day and I am willing to eat my words if I am wrong about the quality.

It’s a little rainy here too. Cheers,

Randy Dufour

Ok so what do you think? Should we be organzing the first ever CRYO-WINE-OLYMPICS? Maybe Catavino should set them up here in Barcelona, just down the road from the “electronic upstarts”? You do know that last year we had a ‘major’ snowstorm here in BCN! Whatever your position, please share your thoughts and feedback as always in the comments below!

Ryan Opaz

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  • http://twitter.com/NicoJamesBCN Nico James

    Very interesting indeed!
    I spoke to a few winemakers in the Penedes after discovering first the Decanter article and then Catavino, which then led me to write an article in Spanish on the subject on my blog http://www.iamvino.com. The ones I talked to on the subject had no idea and it makes me wonder who actually does in the Penedes! Most of them are probably on holiday!

    Anyway I fully agree that real popcorn doesn't compare to microwave popcorn. To be honest I don`t think neither Germans, nor Austrians nor Canadians need to worry. How many people actually in the world can actually name more than two wines from the Penedès which don't include Torres, Freixenet or Cordoniu let alone Vi de Gel (Icewine)? How much Vi de Gel from Gramona is exported to “cold” countries? I don't think that is much of an issue. Would be nice to hear some German thoughts on the subject though. Let the fun begin!

  • Bill

    It's a slippery slope. Look at all of the manipulation other varietals can go through to produce the end product. Where do you draw the line? Do we have a separate requirement to distinguish micro-oxygenated wines from others that don't go through that process, etc? The proof will be in the end product, and whether or not consumers will shell out the cash or not. The Germans, Canadians and Austrian winemakers should chill out (pun intended) and focus on making the best wines they can. Leave it up to their marketeers to create the differentiation in the consumers eye.

  • http://www.wine-a-day.com/ Chris @ Wine a Day

    It is an interesting debate. I feel ice wine should be classified in the same way Port, Champagne and Madeira is. Meaning it can only be called ice wine if it is made in the traditional way in Germany and Austria – and Canada if they agree. This will continue to give the traditional makers the prestige of calling their wine ice wine – with the price tag that goes with that. Other regions can do what they want freezing grapes and the like without the label ice wine.

    • Allison

      I agree with Chris. Icewine should be a protected designation, just like port, sherry, Champagne and the like. Currently there is a WTO agreement between Germany, Austria and Canada that sets an international standard for Icewine production. Icewine is extreme winemaking at it's best – temperatures around -8 to -12 at harvest, hand picking at 2am, super small yields, 3 month fermentations… it's a process and a product that should be protected, and it deserves as much respect as port, sherry, and other protected wine styles.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    I'm with Chris. Let people make what they want, but if you want to ensure the highest quality and natural product, the classification has to mean something (in this case, the payoff from a nasty time harvesting grapes by truck headlight in the freezing cold at 2 AM! :-)

  • http://wwpres.blogspot.com Wilf Krutzmann

    Just to throw you another curve did you know that the first Icewine ever to be produced in Canada was in 1973? And it was not in Ontario. It was produced by Walter Hainle in British Columbia. Certainly British Columbia does not produce nearly the volume that Ontario does but some of the best Icewines in the world come from BC. And of course they should only be called Icewines if made in the natural method. If you want to get the real scoop on Icewines try and find a copy of ICEWINE the complete story by the world’s leading authority on Icewines, John Schreiner

    • Anonymous

      My grandparents made Ice wine in the 1960′s in England too

    • http://wwpress.blogspot.com Wilf Krutzmann

      Sorry about that, but apparently I did not put my blog address in correctly with my comment. So yes I do exist and am at http://wwpress.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    100% agree that the traditional quality Ice Wine process, if followed, should be on the bottles as a DO and have the benefit of the recogniton it deserves…. but only as long as there is also room for creativity and new wine-making methods are permitted to co-exist, such that improvements in technique and technology have an outlet to be developed.

  • http://twitter.com/hello_hn HAENA LEE

    gggg