PENTICTON - B.C. wines continue to grow in sophistication.
The province recently announced the formation of a task force to make recommendations on ways to improve the B.C. appellation system for wine produced from 100 per cent B.C. grapes. An appellation is a legal means of describing the location of where grapes are grown in B.C.
Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced the task for last week, which includes 11 B.C. wine producers, most from the South Okanagan and Similkameen regions.
Group spokesperson Ezra Cipes says they are discussing the possibility of designating new wine regions in the province, or new sub-appellations, in addition to correcting some “compromises" made along the way to B.C.’s present appellation system.
“Some of those compromises have lingered and in a way, proven themselves to be in need of improvement as the years have gone by,” Cipes says.
Presently the B.C. Wine Authority only audits wine that is registered with the B.C. Wine Authority. Cipes said someone from a well-known wine producing area in B.C. could be producing wine with grapes imported from other regions or provinces and labelling it as locally produced. In that sense, appellation is voluntary, and the group will look at mandatory audits of origin.
A controversial wine tasting panel used in classifying Vintners Quality Assurance wines might also be studied by the task group, Cipes says, noting many in the industry argue for quality judgements to be made based on origin only.
“I have personal opinions, but I represent one vote. This task force is going to go through a process of industry consultation to put forward recommendations that will go to an official plebiscite vote of the whole industry, and hopefully we can improve regulations. It’s actually a wonderful opportunity,” he says. He said the group was “pretty ambitious” and hoped a plebiscite would be ready in six months or so.
Cipes says when talking about premium wine from anywhere in the world, it becomes very much about place.
“A green bean tastes like a green bean no matter where it’s grown, but Pinot Noir grown in one part of the Okanagan Valley versus another part of the Okanagan Valley tastes very different.”
“The more we can teach the world about the specialness of our place, the more interesting our wines have the possibility to become,” he says, noting the recent designation of the Golden Mile Bench near Oliver as the first sub-appellation to be named in the province.
“It’s a huge step forward. Now we’re going to learn about the Golden Mile Bench, and have an opportunity to market from this very special place. That’s the beginning of a journey to understand and improve the wine and showcase the best each region has to offer,” Cipes said.
There are currently five designated wine regions in B.C., including the Okanagan Valley, the Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands.
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