Canada’s westernmost province is among the fastest growing New World wine regions. Those who think that British Columbia is only known for great skiing and golf should think again. At last count, the number of BC wineries was nearing 140, with a good number of new ones pending. British Columbia is now catching international attention for the world-class wines that are being made in the province's five recognized ‘Designated Viticultural Areas’ (DVAs): Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands. Bar far the most productive region is the Okanagan Valley where the province’s first wineries were founded.
As of 2008, the total vineyard acreage in the province was 9066 acres of vines, growing mainly French-style vinifera varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah. There are also some German-style varieties like Gewurztraminer and Riesling. The Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) label / medallion on a bottle assures that the wine is based solely on B.C. fruit. To secure the VQA designation wineries must follow strict guidelines, from grape varieties allowed and geographic specificity, to brix levels at harvest time, followed by random laboratory checks and tasting review.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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is the Regional Correspondent for British Columbia.