We have a long history of growing grapes in British Columbia, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s when winemaking began in earnest. By the 1990s, wine labels boasted recognizable words like merlot and chardonnay and we began achieving acclaim. Our province now has more than 300 licensed wineries, growing grapes in a number of regions.
In this multi-part blog series, you’ll be introduced to each of BC’s wine regions – the history of the area, its unique conditions, what’s interesting, and a few of my favourite wines. For now, let’s begin with an overview of what BC has to offer.
Highlights: Vancouver Island wineres are best known for complex aromatics with bright acidity and fresh, juicy flavours. The island is home to tall trees, year-round agriculture, and unending seashore. A moderate coastal climate gives vines a break from risk of serious damage – temperatures range from just above freezing in winter to 25C+ in summer.
Highlights: The Gulf Islands wineries are best known for aromatic white wines and softer tannin red wines. The strong agricultural backbone in these communities has given rise to perseverance in the vineyard, as growing grapes on these islands is not for the meek of character. The moderate coastal climate shortens degree growing days (less heat to ripen) while preserving fresh acidity.
Highlights: The fertile Fraser Valley has wineries best known for bright and aromatic white wines, medium to light body reds, sparkling, and fruit wines. Within close proximity to Vancouver, the area is an agricultural belt and feeds its urban neighbours. Grape growers eschew the fertile soils in search of more challenging terroir, as grapes grow best when they have to work a bit.
Highlights: Wineries in the Similkameen Valley are becoming known for rich reds and complex, mineral-driven whites. One of the oldest organic farm areas in the province, the valley now includes hundreds of acres of vineyards. Hot summer days and cooler nights allow big reds to ripen with good structure and acidity. Eons old glacier run-off built layers of sediment, ideal for grapes.
Highlights: The Okanagan Valley has a wide variety of wines, depending on whether you’re south, central, or north. Temperatures can differ dramatically within a two hour drive. Often the province’s warmest spots in the summer, the area has more degree growing days (days with adequate heat) than some other internationally renowned grape growing regions. True story.
Emerging Wine Regions: 21+ licensed wineries (and growing)
Highlights: This cluster of on-the-fringe wine regions has markedly different geographies, climates, and growing conditions. Each has its own specialties to offer, so take time getting to know them.
Now that you’ve taken a quick tour of British Columbia’s wine regions, stay tuned for our second installment where we delve deeper into our first location: the Fraser Valley.
Until next time, cheers.
Wineries and wine tours in British Columbia
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