Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Developing Terroir: BC Wines Come of Age

Big, bold, and daring or crisp, delicate, and sophisticated. Whatever your preference in wines, BC’s burgeoning wine industry now boasts some of the finest. “BC is clearly developing its own, unique persona,” says Tim Ellison, co-founder of the BC Wine Appreciation Society and long-time sommelier. “As we become more connected to the many individual terroirs and as our vines age to produce grapes with more complexity, we are creating a truly identifiable BC style.”

Award Wining Vintages

“We are no longer trying to mimic other parts of the world,” adds Mike Smith, owner of Recline Ridge Winery(shown left). “Thus our wines show well on the world stage.”

Judges agree, and BC wines are now receiving an ongoing stream of accolades from international, domestic, and local competitions. In one that shook the wine world, last year Jackson-Triggs Estate Wines became the first North American winery to win the prestigious Rosemount Estate Trophy for best Shiraz/Syrah at the London International Wine and Spirits Competition beating out competitors from such Shiraz/Syrah heavy weights as Australia and South Africa with their Okanagan Estate Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Shiraz 2004.

The Wines We Love to Sip

BC consumers are clearly passionate and loyal, so much so that according to the BC Wine Institute who regulates the VQA program, more than 80% of the VQA wines produced in British Columbia remain here.

“British Columbians have a very sophisticated palate, but they are also willing to be adventurous,” says communications manager Lisa Cameron. Although names like Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are still at the top of the list of BC-grown grapes in terms of production, you’ll also find many other intriguing varieties to tantalize your taste buds. Ehrenfelser, Foch, Kerner, Madeleine Angevine, Siegerrebe, Sovereign Opal, and Zweigelt are just a few of the lesser known varietals gaining a steady following of loyal sippers. Hazel Manser, who with her husband Jack, (shown right) owns Larch Hills Winery, says they are also now produce three organic wines – Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and a Pinot Gris.

Climatic Opportunities

With global warming an increasing concern in many commercial sectors, a surprising number of industry watchers are cautiously optimistic the wine industry might actually benefit from climactic changes. In fact, Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell recently suggested the wine industry could expand by 50% thanks to warmer weather making it feasible to grow grapes in new areas. “Ten years ago,” he points out, “no one would have guessed we could grow Shiraz grapes in the Okanagan – now it produces some of the best in the world.”

“We are already seeing it happen in Europe,” says Gary Kennedy, one of four owners at the family-run Granite Creek Estate Wines. “Grapes that used to grow well in France are now being grown in England. In 20 years, we may see wines that were grown in Oliver being grown here in Salmon Arm – and we may see new wineries opening up farther north up the valley.” (Lush and juicy, some of the Granite Creek grapes are show above.)

But Gary stresses he believes it will be a long time the public’s appetite outstrips production. “Shortage of good land is one of the industry’s challenges,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we opened the winery – to preserve and expand viable farmland. I believe we can stand a lot more wineries in this province before any of us suffer any pressure from over production.”

Looking for more information on BC wines? Here are two resources worth bookmarking on your web browser:
BC Wine Institute:
Okanagan Wine

This article was first published in BC Wine & Golf Magazine (April, 2007)

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