Recent cold snap could lead to less Okanagan wine next year

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Cold snap could impact Okanagan wine
WATCH: Recent cold temperatures are having a major impact on the Okanagan wine industry. – Jan 30, 2023

A recent cold snap across B.C.’s Southern Interior could impact the amount of wine that is produced next year.

According to the Summerland Research and Development Centre, results from a recent bud dissection show primary and secondary bud damage across the Okanagan due to extreme weather.

“After that cold snap event, we (had) to take our actual measurements,” said research scientist Ben-Min Chang.

“That’s when I decided to collect extra samples and see how bad the crops are and the impacts over the Okanagan Valley and the result ended up not looking good.”

Experts say a grapevine can generally survive temperatures of -20 and above. Anything colder, like the extremely low temperatures back in late December, can pose a problem.

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“Generally, everywhere is seeing some pretty significant – up to 80 per cent – potential loss,” said Wine Growers British Columbia president Miles Prodan.

“We won’t really know until the spring but as we monitor the buds every month, what we’ve seen so far is not looking good at all.”

Wine Growers British Columbia says the damage isn’t specific to any variety or area, and it’s hard to pinpoint which grapevines were hit the hardest.

“We’re seeing it just right across all varieties. So we’re concerned but I think it’s indicative of climate change and something we’re seeing in the overall decline of crop harvest overall, which we’re concerned about,” said Prodan.

Prodan went on to say that wineries along the Naramata Bench were impacted less than other wineries in terms of bud damage.

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“Probably where it’s least happening, less for us is like 40 per cent, is on the Naramata Bench,” he said.

“On that sort of side of the lake, anywhere that they’ve got good slope and water – bodies of water will tend to warm the air – have done better.”

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Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time wine growers have worried about a short crop.

“We had the same thing happen last year, not to the same extent, but we did have some damage. In the end, it was not as significant as it had looked to be and so we’re hoping again this to be the case,” said Prodan.

“But this time last year, we’re not as concerned as we are right now.”

He said crops overall have continued to decline over the past couple of years due to extreme weather events.

“Climate change is part of the issue for us for sure. We know it’s getting colder, but it’s also those heat domes that are affecting our crop. We’re having water shortages in terms of precipitation and the rest of it,” said Prodan.

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“Generally, we’re seeing some of the worst crops over a nine-year period. We’re very concerned about how climate change is affecting our grapes.”

The organization and researchers say steps are being taken to adapt to the changing climate and hopefully protect the wine industry.

“We may need to take a look at what we planted and where and then maybe take a look at replanting some of those grapes because they just aren’t able to survive where we are now,” said Prodan.

“I think there’s an opportunity to change over some of those grapevines – that’s going to take a huge investment by the industry and hopefully we can look and ask for some government support to help us with that as well.”

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Although the quantity of wine may decrease, Wines of British Columbia says the quality and price of wine in the region won’t be impacted.

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“We are very reluctant to pass any of the short crop onto our consumers. I think there’s a general theory that – supply and demand – if you have demand and less supply you raise your prices. Well, that’s certainly not what B.C. winemakers do,” he said.

“We’ve been hit with all kinds of cost increases over this last year and we have not passed those on to the consumer. We don’t intend on doing that at all. So it’s just us really having to absorb the cost of a little crop and it’s not something we like to see and because there’s huge potential and B.C. consumers love 100 per cent B.C. wine.”

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