Canada: Helping Icewine Growers in Ontario

While the connoisseur associates icewine with a very sweet taste, balanced by high acidity, and a hefty price tag, the icewine maker tends to think of the enormous challenges producing this type of wine poses.

Challenges of Producing Icewine

Icewine is made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. To produce quality icewine, it is essential to keep the grapes clear of botrytis, to permanently monitor the temperature in order to pick the grapes at the right time, and - once this time has come, to pick all the grapes quickly (often within hours).

Therefore icewine production in North America is limited to very few suitable areas. Approximately 75% of Canadian icewine comes from Ontario, in particular from Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County.

Environmental Monitoring Program Launched

Several years ago, the Grape Growers of Ontario launched the "Environmental Information Monitoring Program". To quote from their 2009 annual report: "the project objective was to create a new environmental information monitoring program to improve the technical understanding and monitoring of micro-climate zones within sub-appellations.

Enhanced expert advisories and public access to weather based services via a dedicated website module would deliver site specific weather forecast, dewpoint forecast, near real time temperature inversion monitoring, daily evapotranspiration rates, daily disease risk indexes, as well as heat unit accumulation, solar radiation accumulation and raw weather data."

Sixty ADCON Weather Stations Installed

Sixty ADCON weather stations in three grape growing appellations - Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County, were installed.

These weather stations are incorporated into the Vine and Tree Fruit Innovations website. The stations deliver raw weather data, which is subsequently converted into ice wine hours calculations, bud hardiness, temperature inversion maps, rainfall, GDD (Growing Degree Days) and DSV (Disease Severity Value) models for grape growers, agronomists, organizations and researchers for free access to monitor the current season crop.

During the 2016 season, Weather INnovations Consulting LP operated and maintained the network, and performed regular maintenance throughout the OGWRI Weather Monitoring Network.

This included calibration of the rain gauges in the spring, temperature validation of temperature sensors in the fall before the ice wine harvest, system upgrades where applicable and repair work for damaged and/or delayed stations during the season.

Tool Proven to be Vital to Growers

The ADCON weather network has allowed growers to capture the extreme drought that occurred in the summer of 2016 and the following warm winter in the Niagara region.

The most popular models accessed are ice wine hours, temperature inversion maps and overnight low maps through the winter months by wineries to monitor if they need to implement protective measures for the vines. Having the weather data online has also allowed growers to make timely irrigation decisions. The tool has proven vital to the growers, is universally accepted and will certainly be extended.

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Agricultural Meteorology

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