Icewine on the cheap

Canadian icewine makers are trying to head off a glut of cheap knock–offs.

Icewine makers in Canada increasingly face a problem that has long plagued manufacturers of high-end handbags and expensive watches — cheap knock-offs. Part of icewine’s appeal is its eccentric origin story: grapes must freeze on the vine and then be harvested under sub-zero conditions. But this summer, Spanish officials granted approval for a product made with artificially frozen grapes to be labelled as “icewine.” A number of American wineries now make wine with grapes iced in a freezer, not in a field. With Canadian icewine exports booming — sales to Hong Kong more than doubled last year — vintners worry the artificially frozen wines will sully the country’s flagship product. “You don’t want it being undermined,” says Hillary Dawson, president of the Wine Council of Ontario. “This is our Champagne. This is our Parmesan.” Canadian trade officials are currently lobbying Spanish and European Union officials to ensure artificial icewine is not labelled as the real deal. Winemakers who use artificial freezing methods argue the process has its advantages. Not only is wine made with “cryogenically” frozen grapes cheaper, but the taste is “more sound,” says Steve DiFrancesco, a winemaker at New York’s Glenora Wine Cellars. “The natural icewines aren’t as consistent. Of course, they have more depth of flavour.”