British Columbia’s wine industry has enjoyed decades of boom times, but, in the wake of a string of challenging seasons, up to a quarter of the Okanagan’s wineries are now up for sale.
Vintners have been faced with a heat dome, wildfires, drought and have been stricken by extremely low temperatures for two winters in a row.
“It’s Mother Nature and we’re farmers, so we’re never quite sure what’s going to happen,” said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of Wine Growers B.C.
“But it’s all been exacerbated by climate change.”
Prodan said last year’s winter resulted in the loss of nearly half of the region’s grape crops. And this year’s deep freeze appears to have been worse, potentially damaging grape vines themselves.
That’s on top of devastating wildfire seasons that have put fruit at risk of smoke taint — along with driving critical customers away from the wineries.
“Our wine industry thrives and survives on people coming to visit the wineries, coming to meet the winemakers, coming to get that really personal experience,” he said.
“And when they can’t do that or they are discouraged from coming due to fires, that really affects the wineries.”
Paul Graydon was once a winery owner, but was forced to sell during the pandemic and now makes a living selling wineries.
He told Global News that he’s never been busier, and said shifts in the marketplace, along with factors like the difficult wildfire seasons, have played a part.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in wineries approaching us wishing to sell,” he said.
“B.C.’s hallmark is the ultra-premium wine sector. So with less wine drinkers out there, age demographics changing, that means the market is shrinking for wine consumption.”
While plenty of wineries are up for sale, both Graydon and Prodan said there is no shortage of interested buyers.
Prodan said he views the situation as a “reset” in the industry.
“It’s not a fire sale, people aren’t walking away — I just think people are reassessing the situation, maybe some of the success they have seen today, and maybe cashing out to a certain extent,” he said.
“We’re not short of passion and resiliency in this industry. It is definitely some hard times, but we will get through it.”