The wine industry associations of Canada, Austria and Germany have agreed on an international standard for the production of ice wine, which entered into force in August of this year.

The three parties are to work to adopt a logo branding their ice wine as genuine, protecting consumers from buying sub-standard and fake ice wine.

They have also promised to work together to promote an industry standard to their prospective governments and multilateral organisations in international markets, and encourage the trade of all ice wine products that are made in conformity with these agreed international standards.

They include:

*Grapes used for ice wine production must be frozen during both the harvest and pressing;

*Artificial freezing of any kind is not permitted;

*Harvest and pressing must be must be done at temperatures no higher than minus eight degrees centigrade;

*All the grapes used in a particular ice wine product must originate in the same region;

*Enrichment is not permitted;

*Minimum "natural alcohol content" should be 15%, but could exceed
this minimum because of the natural conditions;

*Minimum actual alcohol content must be 5%, but may be higher;

*Maximum total sulphur dioxide content allowed is 400 mg per litre;

*Volatile acidity may not be higher than 35 milli-equivalents.

Following the agreement, Canada has announced that it is drawing up its own national standards ice wine, which will be incorporated in a general set of standards for wine and which will be based on the Austro-German-Canadian agreement.

A senior official with the Canadian government said the standards will also be similar to existing provincial standards from Ontario and British Columbia, but need reformatting and will then be legislated for under federal law.

He told "We hope to have the standards completed on the national level over the next few months, maybe in January of next year."

Meanwhile, another official, Ian Thomson, counsellor for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said: "The standard will ensure the quality of Canadian wine and because of it people will know exactly what they're getting." Mr Thomson said that the standard will help Ottawa persuade the EU to allow ice wine exports into Europe.

"Certainly, oenological practices are essential when it comes to trading with Europe. There is little reason in negotiating with the European Commission without a standard," he said.

A recent meeting between Agriculture Minister Franz Fischler and Canadian Minister for agriculture Lyle Vanclief involved discussions on greater access for Canada to export its wine - especially ice wine - to European markets. In a communique, both parties agreed that progress should be made.

Mr Vanclief said: "I reiterated our position to Mr Fischler that Canadian wines are second to none and that EU barriers to our products must be removed."

In 1999, Canadian wine exports to the European Union were only worth C$400m(US$285m), while Canadian imports of EU wine were worth C$545m. 545m.