February 19, 2020
Though it may not be as well-known globally as the Bordeaux region of France or Tuscany in Italy, British Columbia has a dynamic, diverse, and vibrant wine scene, and it produces wines comparable to those from Europe and South America. This month at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer, we’re toasting the amazing wines of our neighbours in B.C.
Most of British Columbia’s grape vines are located on the southern edge of B.C, close to the border with the U.S. The geography of the southern region of the province is very diverse; there are lush islands, moist zones, and desert-like valleys that allow for the production of a wide variety of grapes.
The British Colombia Wine Institute is responsible for overseeing the quality of B.C. wines, and the Vintners’ Quality Alliance (VQA) is the system put in place to do so. Wines labelled BC VQA have undergone a vigorous quality control check and the grapes used to make these wines are grown entirely in British Columbia.
Getting to Know B.C. Wine Regions
There are five wine producing regions in B.C.: Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, and Similkameen Valley.
On Vancouver Island, large scale wine production is uncommon because the climate is more unpredictable and the fertile production areas are quite rugged. However, smaller-scale wine producers from this region make wine from Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes, as well as from fruits like cranberries and blueberries.
The Gulf Islands, an archipelago in the Straight of Georgia, has a wine region that spans about 160 kilometers of the strait. Of the 100-plus islands in the area, less than 10 have wineries. The moderate climate here allows for a longer grape growing season, and the most common varieties grown in the region are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling.
The Fraser Valley begins just east of Vancouver and extends from the Fraser River to the town of Hope and then west to the Pacific Ocean. It has a strong farming heritage and over half of the agricultural production in British Columbia happens in this area. The fertile soils and elevated regions of the area make way for vineyards that produce grapes with concentrated flavours.
The Fraser Valley tends to have a cooler climate than some of the other regions, so varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do well here, though you’ll also see Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as well.
Most of the vineyards in B.C. are found here, in Canada’s desert region, and more than 170 wineries have found beautiful homes between the Cascade and the Columbia mountain ranges. A scattering of fresh mountain lakes helps to moderate the temperature, giving a particular brightness to the wine from this area.
The sub regions of Okanagan Valley are Black Sage – Osoyoos, the Golden Mile, Kelowna, Naramata Bench, and Okanagan Falls. In the Okanagan, especially around the town of Osoyoos, Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot do quite well.
The Similkameen Valley is just west of the Okanagan Valley. The Similkameen river runs through the mountains, giving the region a warm and arid climate that plays host to a wide range of grapes including Chardonnay, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
The British Columbia wine scene is vibrant and varied and offers as many varieties of wine as there are climate varieties in the region. Find plenty of great B.C. wines to sample and learn about this month at your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer store.
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