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Why the ice wine harvest at Ferrante Winery got a late start this year

Posted: 8:26 AM, Jan 22, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-22 18:22:37-05
Ice wine harvesting.

GENEVA, Ohio — While many of us dread the cold, Ferrante Winery in Ashtabula County has been waiting for it. Ferrante Winery is one of only five places in the entire world where ice wine is made.

The conditions were finally right early Tuesday and Wednesday for winery workers to pick the grapes for harvest.

Ice wine is a sweet, dessert wine, but in order to get that sweet flavor the temperature outside has to be right.

“It has to be frozen in the vineyards, so the grapes have to freeze,” said Nick Ferrante, the winemaker at the winery.

The process starts early in the morning. About 20 workers began harvesting around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

The frozen grapes are plucked from the vine by a harvester and workers pick the leftover ones by hand.

Then, it’s straight to the presser. The grapes must remain frozen for the hydraulic pressing process, which keeps acidity in them, ultimately making them sweeter.

The colder the grapes, the sweeter the juice.

The juice is then fermented down to 20% residual sugar.

But Ferrante said, so far, this winter hasn’t been ideal.

“You’re dealing with Mother Nature. It hasn’t been very cold, so this is like the fourth time we’ve tried to pick these grapes,” he said.

This year’s harvest is one of the latest they’ve had since 2012, which Ferrante said will affect the volume of wine they can make.

He’s hoping they’ll produce about 300 gallons this season, which is good enough for him.

“I'm just happy that it did get cold and we don’t have to wait another two weeks to pick.”