December 11, 2015 8:16 pm
Updated: December 11, 2015 9:14 pm

Why climate change could be a good thing for Okanagan wines

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WEST KELOWNA – Global warming has its markers like melting ice caps and rising sea levels. But some believe warming temperatures in the Okanagan will only be a benefit to our agriculture sector, especially grapes.

“It’s been the warmest harvest we ever had on record this past year,” says Tony Stewart, chair of the Canadian Vintners Association.

But how hot is too hot? As climate change continues to wreak havoc in some parts of the world, the Okanagan may actually stand to benefit.

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“We have this opportunity now to truly do something exceptional and for really truly the first time, make the Okanagan one of the great regions in the world,” says Anthony von Mandl, proprietor of VMF Estates.

Climate change has shifted what some call the “magical zone” for grape growing from Napa, California, 1,200 kilometres north to B.C.

“Our temperatures have clearly been going up as well but we get this great natural acidity,” says von Mandl.

While the Okanagan’s wine industry is already booming with an increase in tourism and wine sales, von Mandl says climate change will help put the valley at the forefront on the world stage for high-end wines. It’s something he has already started to take advantage of through newly acquired Checkmate Artisanal Winery.

“The bottles of wine start at $90, $100, $120, $130 a bottle. They are five different chardonnays, each from three different vineyard sites,” says von Mandl.

Grooming the vineyards in Oliver to become a showcase has been a secret project.

“You wouldn’t even know the winery is there if you come to the road there’s no sign and we’ve done it deliberately because we wanted everything to go into the vineyard and the wine making,” says von Mandl.

Checkmate wines are only available online and were recently launched in New York in an effort to gain international attention.

“The hope is that it will inspire others in the valley to do the kind of meticulous work and really drive excellence so that we can really be known internationally as one of the great chardonnay regions in the world,” says von Mandl.

But Stewart says it may take a bit more time before the world acquires a taste for top priced Canadian wine.

“I think the Okanagan will benefit to some degree, it might not be super fast, it might not become like Napa, Napa’s too hot for us,” says Stewart.

Click here for more on the research out of Southern Oregon University done by Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Dr. Gregory Jones.

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