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At the largest and, arguably, most influential wine competition on the planet, British Columbia was tops among the wine regions from the Pacific Northwest in 2022.
Five BC wines received a gold medal or better in the Decanter World Wine Awards in London, England. To put that into perspective, only 4.9 per cent of the 18,000-plus entries received gold or better. No wines from Oregon or Washington State rose to the rank of gold.
British Columbia ice wines have long done well on the world stage, as the Canadian climate is synonymous with this style. Indeed, it was an ice wine that scored the platinum medal at the Decanter competition. But the golds went to a Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and a rare Grüner Veltliner.
And these achievements are no fluke. At the Global Fine Wine Challenge in Sydney, Australia last year, a South Okanagan winery won the Syrah/Shiraz trophy, edging out acclaimed producers from Australia far better known for this variety. Canada also scored tops in the Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris and dessert wine categories.
This competition is particularly significant as it is “curated.” Producers are able to enter any wines they wish in most competitions, but in the Global Fine Wine Challenge, wines from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States have to be nominated by experts in their home regions and invited to compete.
The expert who chose the wines from Canada in 2022, accuses consumers of sleeping on Canuck wines.
“I’ve always seen this unique competition as a chance to change perceptions, perhaps even shock the world. Many Canadian wine lovers continue to downplay the quality of the wines produced in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia,” says Christopher Waters, a renowned wine judge and columnist for the Globe and Mail.
“Canadian-made white wines may receive grudging admiration, but red wines are routinely dismissed out-of-hand.”
In addition to the top-ranking trophies, Canadian wines – a large portion of them from BC – won eight runner-up awards, 11 double gold and 17 gold medal citations.
Medals aside, there are lots of reasons to love British Columbia wines and to plan to visit here where you can experience them on their own turf.
British Columbia wine country is made up of unique growing areas featuring even more diverse terrain, soils and microclimates. For that reason, the province’s industry is made up of nine main “Geographical Indicators” (GIs) and 12 sub GIs – six of which were added last year. When a bottle bears the name of a GI or sub-GI, at least 95 per cent of the grapes must have been grown in that specific region.
The 9 GIs are Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Kootenays, Lillooet, Okanagan Valley, Shuswap, Similkameen Valley and Thompson Valley. Vancouver Island has one sub GI – Cowichan Valley; while the Okanagan Valley has 11 – Lake Country, East Kelowna Slopes, South Kelowna Slopes, Summerland Valleys, Summerland Lakefront, Summerland Bench, Naramata Bench, Skaha Bench, Okanagan Falls, Golden Mile Slopes, and Golden Miles Bench.
GIs and sub-GIs provide enthusiasts with a sense of place and assurance as to their origin. They would be comparable to Italy’s DOCG or France AOC appellation programs.
They have also contributed to the continued growth of BC’s wine country as they encourage quality and promote agri tourism. Back in 1990, there were fewer than 20 grape wineries in the province. Today, there are close to 300. In addition, there are many more producers making wines out of tree fruits, berries and honey, while others are crafting beers, ciders and distilled alcohol.
British Columbia is well known for its natural landscape but it’s also culturally diverse and is especially rich in Indigenous heritage. The province is home to 204 Indigenous communities with more than 30 different languages. There are six distinct Indigenous regions, four of which are home to thriving wine industries: Kootenay Rockies; Thompson Okanagan; Vancouver Coast and Mountains; Cariboo Chilcotin Coast; and Vancouver Islands. Responsible and respectful tourism to experience Indigenous culture is welcome within these regions.
There are lots of options available to touring enthusiasts to curate a wine adventure that meets their own interests and/or needs. They can choose to target producers who specialize in a particular grape variety or style of wine. They can select venues to visit based on the uniqueness of their architecture or educational opportunities. Some might wish to focus on wineries who embrace their natural ecosystems and take an environmentally sustainable approach to wine growing and making.
In addition, numerous festivals and food and wine events are offered throughout the province at various intervals of the year celebrating the grape. Refer to the festivals and events calendar.
There are countless ways to customize your visit to BC Wine Country to meet your personal interests and needs. And this site is here to help you do it.
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