The British Columbia wine region located in the south-western corner of Canada has proven time and again that its dynamic wines shine amongst the world’s best. Few wine regions offer such diversity, with a variety of climates and soils throughout the province. Grape growers have the opportunity of selecting ideal sites for each varietal.
At last count, there were 273 licensed wineries, with over 75 different grape varietals planted on nearly 4000ha being grown in British Columbia, from Auxerrois to Zweigelt. While traditional varietals such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling dominate, British Columbia also proudly produces wines from several lesser known varietals, which can be equally impressive.
British Columbia is made up of five diverse wine producing areas - which include Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. For example the climate in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys are well suited to sustainable and organic grape growing - there are an increasing number of vineyards switching to organic techniques. Hot summers, low rainfall, and low humidity and persistent winds all help to reduce damage and crop losses from pests and diseases. Sustainable grape growing and winery practices ensure that the wines in British Columbia are top quality - along with preserving the health of the environment for future generations.
The Gulf Islands are British Columbia’s newest designated wine area. The five islands are home to 10 wineries, each offering a variety of approachable wines. Vancouver Island is home to a passionate numberr of family grape growers and 35 wineries. Winemaking began around 1920 - though a provincial government-funded trial called the ‘Duncan Project’ - assessed about 100 different varietals between 1983 and 1990, identifying Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega as promising varietals for this unique coastal environment.
Okanagan Valley has nearly 82% of the total vineyard acreage in the province, the Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s premier grape growing region. An ever-changing panorama, the valley stretches over 250 kilometres, across distinct sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a growing range of varietals. From world-class operations to family-run boutique vineyards, Okanagan’s 131 wineries are rich with character and consistently ranked among the worlds best at International competitions.
Fraser Valley is 100km’s from Vancouver, with 22 wineries. The wineries are dedicated to producing some of the most acclaimed wines, from delicious sparkling wines to fresh, fruit-forward table wines. The Similkameen Valley is a pristine stretch of vineyards, set amongst the dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains. Recognised by wine lovers and critics alike, producing world-class wines. Although grapes and fruit have been grown in the Similkameen for decades, only recently has there been a rapid expansion, with now 14 wineries.
The expansion of British Columbia’s wine industry has led to an emerging group of regions to watch out for. These new areas, such as the Shuswap, are just beginning to find their personality, and have received accolades from top wine critics. In In British Columbia typically the harvest will begin in mid-September and can last into early November. In the region depending upon the season; 10-25 wineries produce the 'liquid gold' known as Ice-Wine each year. To make this renowned treat, vintners must wait until the temperatures drop below -8°C before they can harvest the frozen grapes. Which can happen any time from November. It is said, great wines are the result of skilled winemakers expressing the unique qualities of the seasons harvest - and the wines of British Columbia are definitely among these.