March 13, 2018 8:10 pm
Updated: March 13, 2018 8:41 pm

How B.C.’s wine industry is keeping up with changing tastes

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With the wine industry flourishing, winemakers from around the province are gathering in the Okanagan to make sure they’re keeping up with their customers.

Penticton hosted the inaugural B.C. Wine Industry Insight Forum, a one-day conference bringing those in the industry together to hear from keynote speakers on climate change, research, marketing and collaboration.

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“What we’re seeing is millenials, a lot of younger people are getting turned on to wine, and that’s exciting for us,” Miles Prodan, B.C. Wine Institute’s CEO and president said. “And so we’ve got to make sure that we have a product that matches their palate and what they’re looking for, and those generally are some of the lighter wines.”

“There’s been a huge uptake in rosés, for instance, not just specifically here in this marketplace but around the world,” Prodan said. “What you can grow is important and where you can grow it, but also, who’s going to be consuming it. So you have to understand what consumers want.”

READ MORE: Alberta suspends ban on B.C. wine after Horgan backs down on restricting bitumen

Prodan said he was disappointed in Alberta’s boycott of B.C. wines, but it helped point out a bigger issue: the need to be able to ship to consumers directly.

“Any winery in this province, or in this country, wants to be able to ship directly to their customers,” he said. “[The dispute] really highlighted the need for that, so hopefully we’ll see some progress there.”

READ MORE: Okanagan wineries call Alberta’s ban on the import of B.C. wine unexpected and unfair

Prodan said he was also pleased with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recent decision to drop the label “Cellared in Canada.”

Blended wines bottled in Canada from both domestic and international products will now be labelled “International blend from imported and domestic wines” if they’re mostly imported wines or “International blend from domestic and imported wines” if they’re mostly made from domestic wines.

READ MORE: Canadian winemakers celebrate misleading wine labeling change

“If anyone has any doubt as to where their wine comes from or what’s in the bottle, if it has VQA on the label, that means it is guaranteed to be 100 per cent B.C.,” Prodan said.

Prodan said there’s been a shift in the market as grape growers are now also becoming winemakers.

“What that means is it’s giving consumers a lot more choice, but it also makes it crowded in the marketplace, and so we need to talk about what are the opportunities, how do you differentiate yourself.”

READ MORE: Okanagan wine industry celebrates end of Alberta boycott

Meanwhile, researchers in the Okanagan are using cutting-edge technology like drones with different kinds of cameras to monitor light and irrigation.

“We can see the different areas in the vineyard that are warmer or cooler, and that corresponds to how much water is in the soil, so it’s easy to pick up areas of stress and high water levels,” research scientist Pat Bowen said.

The Okanagan is a good area to study because there is a wide range of climates over a short distance, she added.

“In the Kelowna area and the north, we have conditions similar to the coolest grape growing areas in the world, really great for pinot noir and white wines, all the way down to the border, which is very similar in climate to places like Bordeaux and Australia.”

As for who’s visiting Okanagan wineries, Maya Lange, with Destination B.C., said Americans and Australians are the top two international visitors.

“And then a growing market is the Chinese,” she said. “They do more group travel, and so that is a bit of a challenge, I think, with some of the wineries, and they really need to support sort of tour buses and so on.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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