Early this week, WineCollective got the chance to take part in the B.C. Wine Institute’s B.C. Wine Seminar, hosted at Bar C in Calgary. With a lack of marketing and education on B.C. wines in most wine courses, the B.C. Wine Institute wanted to provide an exclusive look at the ever-growing wine industry in the beautiful Canadian province.
Much like Burgundy and Alsace, British Columbian wine regions are located at the perfect 30-50 degrees Latitude range for healthy vine growth. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Canadians became convinced of the regions’ potential.
A brief history of BC wines!
1907: Earliest record of a serious attempt at grape production in Salmon Arm.
1930: Extensive plantings of labrusca varietals.
1974: Federal government brings in 4,000 vinifera vines for new plantings.
1990: VQA (Vitners Quality Alliance) standards are put into place.
1993: BC VQA wine sales reach $10 million.
2006: BC VQA wines sales reach $134 million. 133 wineries in operation.
2013: Mission Hill Family Estate Winery wins Best Pinot Noir at Decanter World Wine Awards.
Today: Over 220 wineries in B.C., and sales reach $205 million.
Today, winemakers in British Columbia aim to create wines with a sense of place. With hot temperatures through out the province, mineral rich soils, and a shorter growing season, B.C. wines are beginning to create a name for themselves when considering their characteristics. With a shorter growing period, grapes are harvested with higher acidity and sugar, which translates to less intervention by the winemaker. From north to south, the different B.C. regions are giving noble varieties a new place to thrive!
B.C. wine regions include the following. The Okanagan Valley is B.C.’s largest wine region, responsible for over 87% of all vineyard area.
- Okanagan Valley (sub regions: Kelowna, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos)
- Similkameen Valley
- Fraser Valley
- Gulf Islands
- Vancouver Island
- Other B.C. regions (including Shuswap and Grand Forks)
White Grape Varieties in B.C.
Northern Okanagan and island regions are making delicious white wines from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Blanc.
Red Grape Varieties in B.C.
Southern Okanagan has been able to produce everything from soft and fruity to big and bold red wines. Merlot leads in production followed by Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Foch, Malbec and Petite Verdot.
Both Oliver and Osoyoos have over 1485 Growing Degree Days (GDD – a measure of heat that impact plant growth) in comparison to Napa Valley with 1450. With statistics like these, B.C. wine makers are beginning to experiment with new varieties such as Tempranillo, which requires plenty of sunny days.
Though the B.C. wine industry has sprouted in just over 20 years, it is still far behind from prestigious regions and even wineries. All together, B.C. produces 1 million cases of wine per year. Meanwhile, some wines (ex. Dr. Loosen Riesling) reaches 2.5 million cases per year on its own.
A ’boutique region,’ B.C. has something new to offer to the wine world and it is up to Canadians, like is, to spread the word! Visit WineCollective today for numerous Canadian features including:
Clos du Soleil Signature
Cedar Creek Mac & Fitz Red or White
We’d love to hear about your B.C. wine experiences. Have you visited a winery, or have an ultimate favourite B.C. wine? Share your story for a chance to win a Canadian wine gift pack!