BC Authorises 6 New Subregions!

Monday, August 15, 2022

  1. East Kelowna Slopes
  2. South Kelowna Slopes
  3. Lake Country
  4. Summerland Valleys
  5. Summerland Bench
  6. Summerland Lakefront

Well, aren't we growing up?!! With 6 new subregions recently announced, it brings the total up to eleven in the Okanagan alone, and an additional subregion within the Vancouver Island GI. To break it down a bit, our 9 GI’s or Geographic Indications are: FRASER VALLEY, GULF ISLANDS, KOOTNEYS, LILLOOET, OKANAGAN VALLEY (including the 11 subregions of East Kelowna Slopes, golden Mile Bench, Golden Mile Slopes, Lake Country, Okanagan Falls, Naramata Bench, Skaha Bench, South Kelowna Slopes, Summerland Bench, Summerland Lakefront, and Summerland Valleys), SHUSWAPS, SIMILKAMEEN VALLEY, THOMPSON VALLEY, AND VANCOUVER ISLAND (including the Cowichan Valley subregion).

We can note that GI’s on the wine label note where the grapes are grown, (95% must come from the GI or sub GI names) not necessarily where the winery is located. The whole idea behind creating these GI’s is to inform the consumer of the origin of the wine. From there, we can begin to delve into the broader sense of place via a general Geographical area, and further, investigate the climate, soil types, altitudes, etc. that a subregion might have that can be notes in the nature of the wines that come from them. These are wines that we may call ‘terroir driven’. They represent these particular aspects of a notable growing area with specific geographical and topographical characteristics. We can expect, for instance, the wines that are created from more northern sourced vineyards in say the THOMPSON GI to have a brighter, more acidic profile. This is due to the way that grapes develop in cooler climates, with less sunlight hours, and cooler nights. Wines derived from the vineyards in the OKANAGAN GI, and particularly the GOLDEN MILE sub GI that practically hug the Canada USA border can be expected to display lush, deeply coloured red wines with a firm structure for which to wrap the layers of seductive well ripened fruit profiles, with tannin structure that is firm, but not astringent. The grapes this far south enjoy plenty of heat, and sunlight hours so the phenolic components that lay just beneath the skins of the grapes develop nicely. This is where the colour pigments develop, esters that we can interpret via the aromatic profile, and tannins that in a fully ripened grape, show smooth but firm in the finished wine. It’s why we grow many of the Bordeaux grape varieties as far south as possible.

As we move northward into the subregions of OKANAGAN FALLS and the NARAMATA BENCH we can notice that Pinot Noir vineyards are very healthy, seeming to thrive in the terroir there, and producing gorgeous, terroir driven wine. Heading east into the KOOTNAYS GI with fewer sunlight hours and heat degree days, we can again feel the cooler climate aspect in the nature of the wines coming from this area… they are a little lighter, fresher, and with delicate aromatic profiles. Moving through the SIMILKAMEEN VALLEY GI when we taste the wines we can feel that the wines are subject to cool evening winds, so although they get some fantastic sunlight hours, and heat during the day, they also develop freshness that comes from the high mountains on each side of the valley creating an early sunset, and from the chilly winds that blow through the valley.

VANCOUVER ISLAND GI covers a fairly diverse set of growing conditions with much higher rainfall than we experience further inland… here we are able to find grapes that make fruit forward sparkling wine, fresh summer sippers, and as the area matures we are finding some well made reds as well. Hybrid grapes have been key to the development of the growing area as there are many that have been developed that are resistant to the fungal diseases that might cause havoc in the more humid environment of the west coast. In the COWICHAN VALLEY sub GI white German grape varieties do very well, as well as Gamay Noir and some of the PInot’s. Wines with tension… creating the notoriety needed to become a unique Vancouver Island subregion. The GULF ISLANDS GI produce a fairly small quantity of wine, but have their own unique growing conditions too. Many of the Gulf Islands have a dry climate and exist on bedrock with very little topsoil and a good amount of sunlight hours as you move further south.

Our new 6 sub GI’s highlight some of BC’s more recent producers and will bring recognition to the wines coming from these uniquely specific wine growing areas. As these wine projects and regions grow and mature in their own right, we as consumers will have a front seat to the development of wine style and craftsmanship in the making of the wines that hail from them. One of the wonderful things about existing in a new and developing winegrowing area of the planet, is that we have SO MUCH ROOM TO LEARN AND GROW!! We are now beginning to see what grape varieties do well in each particular terroir and that’s an accomplishment! Let’s sit back with a glass of BC wine in hand, and enjoy the journey ;)

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