BC Wines

History of British Columbia Wines

Over 130 years ago, Father Charles Pandosy planted vines at the Oblate Mission seven miles south of the town of Kelowna. In the 1930’s, the industry focus was mostly sweet and fortified wines, made mainly from fruit and Labrusca varietals. The varietal mix would increase with the addition of French hybrid vines to the Okanagan. A crossing of European vinifera species and North American vine species, the virtue of the red Baco Noir, Rougeon and Marechal Foch varietals was their winter hardiness.

The Becker project during the 1970’s was a viticultural research project carried out to find better suited grape varieties for the region. Named after Professor Helmut Becker, Head of Viticulture at Geisenheim (Germany), the varietals Auxerrois, Ehrenfelser, Pinot Blanc, Bacchus, Gewürtztraminer, Mûller-Thurgau, Schonburger, and Scheurebe were found to be most promising. As small estate wineries began to appear in the 1980’s, more vinifera vines were planted.

Today ninety-six per cent of all plantings are vinifera vines. Vines are now planted to 4,200 acres, with 73% of growth in the last 2 years. Much of this is in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley where it meets the Washington State border. Over sixty wineries call the province home. The majority are in the interior regions but newcomers are sprouting up on the milder Vancouver and Southern Gulf islands. The top 10 red and white planted varietals in British Columbia are:

  • Merlot (R)
  • Chardonnay (W)
  • Pinot Noir (R)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (R)
  • Gewürztraminer (W)
  • Pinot Gris (W)
  • Pinot Blanc (W)
  • Riesling (W)
  • Cabernet Franc (R)
  • Gamay (R)

B.C. Designated Viticultural Areas:

The British Columbia wine industry adopted VQA standards for defining four viticultural areas (DVAs), which are the Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island.

Posted in:

Leave a Reply