The Okanagan Valley (and yes, the Similkameen too…) are what most people think about when they think about B.C. wine (or #BCwine, if you prefer). Most of the grape production happens in these regions and it far and away the dominant presence in the province’s wine industry.
What does that do to the other regions that are now growing grapes and making wine? Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands have been making wine for just as long (longer, actually – “Valleys of Wine” spoiler alert). If we lined up wines from the Okanagan with those from other wine regions, the comparisons are not always fair. How can we begin to compare apples to apples? What is a good way to measure the progress of all of our wine regions?
I’m on the record as stating (7 years ago on an American podcast) that the wines that B.C. does more distinctly are Syrah and Gewurztraminer. I continue to stand by that assessment. The depth and complexity coming from modern vintages of Syrah are astounding. I have yet to find other regions in the world that can make the kinds of scents and flavours that come from Gewurztraminer and other aromatic wine grape varieties.
But Syrah cannot be grown outside of the south Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys so we can’t really compare wines made between multiple regions fairly. What grapes grow in the most regions and can they show us what makes those regions unique?
Aromatic varieties are probably the style that will allow us to compare multiple regions. Riesling is a good option but consider Siegerrebe, which may be the variety that is grown in the most regions in the province;
- Gray Monk has been growing it for years in the Okanagan
- Sea Star has a beautiful one grown on Pender Island.
- Recline Ridge has had it on their property since the 1990s in the Shuswap.
- Valley of the Springs in the Kootenays uses it as their mainstay for the signature blend Vista and has produced a single-varietal version as well.
- Blue Grouse and Venturi Schultz in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island have grown Siegerrebe for many years.
- Mt. Lehman Winery has a Siegerrebe and Domaine de Chaberton and Singletree each have at least two different wines made from it in the Fraser Valley.
Pinot Noir is another possible grape variety with a lot of representation across many wine regions. I would argue that the aggregate quality of Pinot Noirs across the regions is lower than that of aromatic varieties, such as Siegerrebe. A case could be made for Marechal Foch as well since that variety (formerly B.C.’s most widely planted red grape variety prior to Free Trade in 1989) is still represented in many regions as a respectably produced red wine.
Whichever grape variety makes its way into some semblance of a universally accepted grape variety for B.C., it is important that we compare apples to apples when considering the different wine regions going forward. #BCwine is a lot more than just the Okanagan Valley. If you like the adventure of tasting wines from different places, B.C. has a lot of wines to explore.