B.C. wine grows with four new regions as province moves on task force recommendations

SummerHill vineyard overlooking Okanagan Lake

British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA) wines are growing in distinction.

Four new regions will be recognized later this year, along with a commitment from the Ministry of Agriculture to implement the remaining recommendations that were proposed by the Wine Appellation Task Force, in celebration of B.C. Wine Month.

B.C. wine drinkers will soon be able to buy BC VQA wines clearly identified as coming from the Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet and Kootenays. The four areas are being established as geographic indications, a standard element of appellation systems used around the world that help people identify wines in the marketplace, provide assurance as to the origin and quality of the wine, and promote agri-tourism. British Columbia currently has six official geographical indications: British Columbia (provincial), Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Similkameen Valley, and the Okanagan Valley.

“More and more people are starting to recognize the quality and diversity of B.C. wines found throughout our province, from Ortega in the Cowichan Valley, to Cabernet Franc in the Okanagan Valley and Rosé in the Creston Valley, and everything in between,” said Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham. “By helping B.C.’s wine regions identify and promote their own terroir, and making it easier for smaller wine producers to participate in the B.C. VQA program, B.C. wine drinkers will be able to make more informed choices as they select, enjoy, and buy B.C. wines.”

The use of unregulated geographical indications will be prohibited by participating wineries as well, further strengthening the reputation and assurances that BC VQA wines are as advertised, and made from grapes grown in the regions on their labels. The Ministry of Agriculture will also support industry efforts to identify new sub-geographical indications, to help bring more distinction to the multiple wine growing areas of the Okanagan Valley and other regions. Currently, the province only has one official sub-geographical indication, the Golden Mile Bench near Oliver.

“Recognition of these new official geographical indications, and addition of sub-appellations, reflects the maturation and progress of B.C.’s premium wine industry,” said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the British Columbia Wine Institute. “Not only are they a marketing tool for the regions, but also for wines made using certified 100 per cent B.C. grapes.”

The B.C. government will support smaller operations by establishing flat fees for the BC VQA program for small wineries to ensure participation isn’t cost prohibitive. Currently, over 176 wineries participate in the program, regulated by the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA), representing approximately 75 per cent of licensed grape wineries in the province.

“Monte Creek Ranch Winery is very passionate about the wines produced from our site in the Thompson Valley,” said Erik Fisher, general manager of Monte Creek Ranch Winery. “Our winery has, and continues to make, significant investments in producing premium wines from this new emerging region. We are thrilled to be able to identify our wines from this special region, and to now be able to aid consumers in navigating B.C.’s unique terroir.”

The Ministry of Agriculture is expected to make regulatory changes to the Province’s Wines of Marked Quality Regulation in order to finalize these changes, which should be complete by summer 2018. The changes follow recommendations made in 2016 by the BC Wine Appellation Task Group, an industry-led group formed to propose amendments to the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation that represent the interests of all 100 per cent B.C. wine producers. The Government of British Columbia will work with B.C. winemakers, and the wine authority, to implement the remaining recommendations:

  • As a condition of having a winery licence producers making wine from 100 per cent B.C. grown grapes be required to become a member of the BCWA, and be subject to audits conducted and enforced, per the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation.
  • Changing the Wines of Distinction category name in the regulations to British Columbia wine. Both BC VQA and British Columbia wine will be allowed to use the geographic indication on their labels.
  • All wines made from 100 per cent B.C. grapes must register as either British Columbia VQA (BC VQA), or British Columbia wine, in order to qualify for recognition as a wine of British Columbia.

The Province has committed $100,000 to the B.C. Wine Institute to help in the promotion of B.C. wine to British Columbians, as part of April’s B.C. Wine Month campaign. Destination BC committed $150,000 to tourism marketing over the months of April and May, in support of B.C. wineries and wine tourism.

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