The Golden Mile Bench wineries are now well on their way to having the Okanagan’s first sub-appellation. It represents the first serious step in narrowing the focus of BC wines, stratifying the growing regions, and shining some light on what those many microclimates can contribute to the wines we drink.
This could be an ugly can of worms in some respects though and I can see a lot of people not agreeing with this if it goes through. Having worked on the Golden Mile and having followed many of the wineries there for a relatively long time, I’m curious to see who will really take advantage and benefit from this. There are very few wineries in BC who create there entire portfolio of wines from an individual area although those that do can’t indicate this in any meaningful way on their labels. “BC VQA Okanagan” is about as specific as it gets and everyone knows that grapes grown in Osoyoos are different than those grown north of Kelowna. Cherries are different too, but I’ll leave that issue to the cherry bloggers out there.
If this starts the ball rolling towards more legal geographic indications of origins, I’m all for it. But I don’t think it will change much in consumer attitudes, at least not right away. People seem to be accepting of tasting a wine labeled “VQA Okanagan” at a wineries on Vancouver Island so I don’t see it influencing their purchasing decisions of a Naramata winery with a merlot labeled as “VQA Osoyoos” or something like that.
Will consumers start to question the sources more closely? Perhaps. Certainly the exclusivity and rarity of a geographically marked wine will automatically rank it above a more general appellation in the same way that the specific AOC Margaux is deemed to be superior to more general AOC Bordeaux. The same goes for other regions with more specific indications of origins like Burgundy or Beaujolais where there are extreme differences in quality levels. Can we really taste those differences in BC when everyone is making wine with 20 different grape varieties? Is it really worth separating it out just to have a different origin on the label? It remains to be seen.
I visited wineries in Niagara in 2007 after they introduced sub-appellations and at the time it appeared a little chaotic. I wonder if anyone in Ontario has any research on consumer attitudes towards their sub-appellations since that time?
In any case, this should be a very interesting discussion. Here is a copy of the original press release from Hawksworth Communications:
Golden Mile Bench Proposes to become Okanagan Valley’s First Sub-Appellation
Oliver, BC (May 21, 2014) – Wineries located on the Golden Mile Bench wine growing area near Oliver in British Columbia have submitted a proposal to become the first official sub-DVA “Designated Viticultural Area” of the Okanagan Valley DVA. An in-depth scientific analysis by scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre – Summerland (AAFC-PARC Summerland) has shown the area has a combination of landform, landscape position, mesoclimate, air drainage and soil materials that make it distinct within the Okanagan Valley, contributing to the production of unique wines.
A group of producers in the area have been exploring the concept of proposing a Golden Mile Bench DVA since 2009. After much discussion, debate and an in-depth study of the region’s terroir by Scott Smith, M.Sc. Soil Scientist with AAFC-PARC Summerland in conjunction with Dr. Pat Bowen, Ph.D. Research Scientist, Viticulture and Plant Physiology also at AAFC-PARC Summerland, the final boundaries were decided. Wine consultant, Rhys Pender MW of Wine Plus+ helped to compile the proposal.
With the Okanagan Valley DVA comprising around four-fifths of all British Columbia’s vineyard area, yet producing wines from many different mesoclimates and terroirs, it is a widely held belief that there is a need to break this large, single appellation into meaningful, scientifically unique sub-DVAs that produce distinctive wines. Golden Mile Bench is the first such application to the BC Wine Authority.
The proposal was submitted to the BC Wine Authority (BCWA) on May 20th. The BCWA will conduct consultations within the region and a vote by ballot amongst the relevant stakeholders within the proposed region’s boundaries. Once the due diligence has been completed and assuming the BCWA determines that all requirements have been met, it will then submit the proposal to the Minister of Agriculture for approval.
Any enquiries about the status of the proposal should be directed to the BC Wine Authority (http://www.bcvqa.ca).