There are outstanding choices to enjoy today — and much promise on the horizon

I will be out this October helping some of my vintner friends harvesting the grapes. I came across this article by Anthony Gismondi and found it interesting as I will be handling these types of grapes. I hope you enjoy it.



It is time to look at B.C.’S best red wine, three decades after the first meaningful plantings of red grapes went into the ground in the south Okanagan Valley.

We have no problem suggesting some of these wines can compete globally, but we still need more comparative tastings to assess their ultimate standing.

I no longer have any doubt that we will get there. Historically, the notion of anyone making outstanding red wines in B.C. was difficult to accept based on what we were tasting. Pinot Noir looked a good bet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but even most of it was planted in the wrong place.

Add to that rudimentary viticulture knowledge and winemakers with little or no experience drinking or making world-class wine, and it has been a journey.

All that is water under the bridge in 2020, as 30 years down the road, the results are frankly quite startling.

The journey has been a tortuous one for those who have tasted their way through three decades of B.C. reds. But it was all necessary to get to where we are today. You could write a book on some of the topics such as tannin as bitter, green and astringent as you could imagine. If that wasn’t enough to kill the wine, too much oak and often too much new oak ended up sitting on the wine, rather than becoming part of the wine and supporting its finish.

In the vineyard, better irrigation practices and getting total phenolic ripeness is something wineries are achieving with ease.

Alcohol was never really a problem, and the acid we have is a major plus; harvesting fully ripe, flavourful grapes before the snow flies was always a challenge. Modern viticulture practices and global warming have dealt with most of those issues, leaving only time, refinement and the passing down of local knowledge to finish the job.

The current work is more about place, namely single vineyard sites, small blocks, the exposition of a vineyard, clones and all the little things that set apart a great vineyard from a good vineyard.

That includes work underground, investigating the geology of the vineyard from top to bottom across the entire site. New vineyard areas continued to open up thanks to better machinery and science, making it easier to plant and maintain. Adding to that is the excitement of going organic and, for some using biodynamic techniques to support the search for authenticity, `somewhere-ness’ and our unique B.C. style.

Following the grapes has been interesting.

Everyone wanted to grow Cabernet Sauvignon back in the beginning ( because everyone was drinking imported cabernet), even if most of the plantings were ill-suited to their sites. Merlot settled in for a long run of mediocrity while the little-known or sought after Gamay proved to be a better wine grape than Pinot Noir.

Today Pinot Noir is showing amazing promise at many sites around the province. Cabernet Sauvignon is enjoying a renaissance thanks to global warming and the aforementioned better winemaking and growing techniques.

The big changes are Cabernet Franc, now an unsung hero that is going to be a big star in B.C., and Merlot is also undergoing a major renaissance. Syrah has been the biggest surprise of all, and it’s leading to more experimentation with other Rhone varieties.

That said, there are some outstanding red wines to be bought and tasted in B.C. today, and while it is not particularly fashionable, they can also be cellared with full confidence.