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Winter poses threat to Ontario grape crop

Feb. 8, 2014 at 4:39 PM   |   Comments

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The harsh winter of 2014 may have claimed another victim, with vintners in Ontario saying the "polar vortex" is damaging several varieties of grapes.

Hank Hunse, owner of Small Talk Vineyards on Lake Ontario's north shore, said the unusually cold winter and lack of lake effect snow means he's lost nearly all of his Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc crops for 2014, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said Saturday.

Industry experts, though, say it's too soon to know what the real effect of the brutal cold will be on wine production in the region.

Grape Growers of Ontario Chief Executive Officer Debbie Zimmerman said growers won't know until June how much of the crop was lost.

She said certain kinds of grapes are heartier than others, with Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah among the most vulnerable.

"If the vines have been affected, that's when we have broader concerns," she said.

One perk of the harsh cold, though, is an unusually healthy and flavorful crop of ice wine. The syrupy sweet dessert treat is made from grapes that freeze, distilling the sugar from the fruit. The winter's early freeze means a particularly good year for ice wine.

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