WINES OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Though the first vines were planted in British Columbia by Father Charles Pandosy in 1859, the stage for BC to become a premium winemaking region was set thousands of years earlier when a series of significant geographical events—primarily glacial deposits and erosion—led to the diverse bedrock, landforms and soils that make this wine region so unique.
There are five Viticultural Areas in the province: Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Similkameen Valley and the Okanagan Valley. Boasting nearly 82% of the total vineyard acreage in the province with 8,619 acres planted, the Okanagan Valley is BC’s premier grape growing region. An ever-changing panorama, the Valley stretches over 250 kilometres across numerous sub-regions, each with different soil and climate conditions suited to a growing range of varieties.
Cooler climate varieties like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thrive in the North Okanagan, while the South Okanagan provides ideal conditions for ripening Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah/Shiraz. The Okanagan Valley is also home to British Columbia’s first sub-appellation, the Golden Mile Bench where 791 acres of vineyards are sited on an alluvial fan that was deposited during the last glacial episode.
Although the modern winemaking industry is still young by world standards, the growth of the wine industry in British Columbia has been exponential over the past 25 years. In 1990 there were just 17 wineries in British Columbia; today, there are 278 wineries, welcoming 800,000 winery visitors each year.
British Columbia now has nine appellations - called GIs - as well as sub-GIs in the Okanagan Valley.