10 interesting facts about the wines from British Columbia

June 10th, 2017

British Columbia BC wine wines

By Joseph Temple

Drawing many parallels with the province of Ontario, the vineyards of Beautiful British Columbia truly began their ascent in the early 1990s when free trade laws forced local vintners to compete with wines south of the border.  However, by utilizing the full potential of areas like the Okanagan Valley, B.C. has increased the number of wineries by an astounding 2000% since 1990, representing approximately 9,800 acres that make everything from traditional Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to sparkling and icewine. So have a look below and see how such a phenomenal amount of growth has transpired in such a short period of time across the Pacific Province.


History of wine in British Columbia

1. The first vines were planted by the Roman Catholic Church near Kelowna during the mid-1800s.

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kelowna okanagan valley wine apple agriculture

2. During the early 1930s, the province’s apple industry experienced a bumper crop that caused prices to plummet. Desperate for another source of revenue, the wine industry was able to convince farmers to switch from harvesting apples to grapes.

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wine grape varieties varietals hybrid vitis vinifera

3. Up until the 1980s, British Columbia was mostly known for growing hybrid varieties such as Marechal Foch, Rougeon, & Baco Noir.

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Canadian wine industry free trade

4. With the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, local vintners now had to compete with California, Oregon, and Washington. In response and to help increase quality, the federal government paid vineyards to pull out their inferior hybrid varieties and replace them with vinifera grapes, known as the 1988-89 pullout.

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how many vineyards in British Columbia during 1990s

5. Following this decision, the area dedicated to producing grapes jumped by 182% from 1990 to 1999.

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wine topography british columbia

6. The vast majority of British Columbia is too mountainous and/or too far north for growing vinifera grapes. Only a tiny strip in the southern end of the province can support winemaking.

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British Columbia Okanagan Valley wine

7. The most important and prestigious winemaking area in BC is the Okanagan Valley, which surrounds the Okanagan Lake and is nearly 500km east of the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the province’s few warm-climate wine growing areas.

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Similkameen wine

8. Another prominent wine region is Similkameen Valley, which along with the Okanagan Valley represents nearly 90% of all the vineyards in the province. Roughly 400km east of Vancouver, these two areas are protected from coastal rains by two moderate mountain ranges.

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wine areas vqa appelations British Columbia

9. Other areas include Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

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British Columbia wine grapes

10. Today, there are more than 75 grape varieties that are grown by more than 340 wineries. Some of the most popular varietals include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.

Sources:

Aspler, Tony & Leslie, Barbara. Canadian Wine for Dummies. Mississauga: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., 2000.
Danehower, Cole. Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest. Portland: Timber Press, 2010.
Esrock, Robin. The Great Canadian Bucket List – British Columbia. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2014.
Harding, Julia. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.


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Ask Sid: Why do winemakers use both American & French oak on the same wine?

June 7th, 2017
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French and American oak wine barrels

Question:  I see quite a few wines that have been stored in both American & French oak. Why is this?

Answer: Yes there seems to be a lot of them in the expanding number of New World wines – especially for bold reds and Bordeaux style wines. American barrels usually give more sweet assertive intense vanilla notes while French oak tends to deliver more subtle flavours with a better finishing lift. New barrels impart even more pronounced flavours than previously used ones. Larger size barrels than the traditional smaller barrique size help preserve the fruit so now are becoming more popular. Less use of oak is also an increasing trend. One reason for using a combination of oaks is that French barrels are generally much more expensive than American (or Slavonian and others). Another is what barrels does the winery actually have available to use in the cellar. Some winemakers do believe that using a combination does provide more complexity in the final wine. I must say I generally prefer French oak more though new American oak casks are much improved these days. Of course the key is always what does the wine smell and taste like after the seasoning of oak used regardless of where the wood comes from.


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50th Anniversary Dinner IWFS Vancouver Branch

June 5th, 2017

iwfs vancouver branch

The International Wine & Food Society is alive and thriving in Vancouver. Last night our Vancouver Branch held their 50th Anniversary dinner (menu attached) at the Vancouver Club the same place where it all began back in 1967. Some wonderful stories and reminiscences throughout the evening. We toasted Andre L Simon (1877-1970) the Founder of our wonderful worldwide non-profit society in 1933 with a clear focus to bring together and serve all who believe that a right understanding of both wine and food is an essential part of personal contentment and health. We referred to the inaugural opening IWFS dinner in January 1934 for some 400 at the Savoy in London followed almost immediately by Andre’s journey to America establishing the first branches in Boston & Chicago in 1934 then by San Francisco, Los Angeles & New Orleans the following year. We remembered his previous career talking and selling Champagne highlighted by the story of the 1895 Pommery showing an unclear smoky sediment after release with the whole shipment being recalled on buyer full payback price + 5%. This decision resulted in an enhanced credible reputation for both Andre & Pommery with increased sales for the heralded vintages of 1900, 1904, and 1906 and those that followed. Andre Simon also lectured and wrote books as a hobby initially and later became editor of the esteemed Wine & Food Journal from 1934-1962. Lots of admiration mentioned for his 104 published books over 66 years with the 3 favourites perhaps being By Request (1957), In the Twilight (1969) and A Wine & Food Bedside Book (1972) by then Secretary of the IWFS Claude Morny with 70 articles selected from Wine & Food Journals. Some of us old-timers recalled memorable visits to the old IWFS headquarters then at Marble Arch House at 44 Edgware Road in London.

We spoke of some of the earlier International Festivals: 1971 Paris (top restaurants), 1974 San Francisco & Los Angeles (so many memorable winemakers including legends Joe Heitz & Robert Mondavi), 1977 (drinking the 1945 Chateau Latour collected for us by Andre), 1980 Australia (so many wine legends involved including Len Evans, Murray Tyrrell, Max Lake…), 1983 Vancouver (50th anniversary included delicious 1933 Moulin Touchais & 1933 Seppelt Para Liqueur Port) and 29 years later in 2012 it again returned to Vancouver. We are proud of hosting our two Festivals which both had all local members total participation!

The Vancouver Branch is in good hands presently under the continued leadership of Milena & Jim Robertson. They were heartily congratulated and honoured with the Awards of BGA Gold for Milena & the International Andre Simon Bronze for Jim. Both richly deserved!

How many years for your Branch of the IWFS?

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Ask Sid: Europe Wine Fairs in 2018?

May 31st, 2017
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what wine festivals are in 2018

Question: We run a wine shop and are organizing our European trip for Spring 2018. Sid are there any Wine Fairs you recommend we should check out?

Answer: Yes the increasingly popular Prowein in Dusseldorf will run for 3 days March 18-20; taste 2017 Bordeaux Primeurs on April 9-12 followed by Vinitaly in Verona April 15-18. In fact those 2 events now have organized their schedules so you can visit both consecutively with already fixed dates for 2019: April 1-4 BP & 7-10 V + 2020: March 30-April 2 BP & April 5-8 V. Also London England Wine Trade Fair at Olympia May 21-23. Stop off in Hong Kong on your way back for their 20th Vinexpo celebrations. Enjoy.


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1999 Bordeaux Horizontal

May 29th, 2017

1999 bordeaux wine horizontal tasting

The 1999 vintage is already approaching 20 years old and yet most Bordeaux of that year has been largely forgotten by collectors. It was a very hot Summer and rainy September with hail in St. Emilion early on that month. Certainly didn’t help 1999 to be a big crop sandwiched between the very successful Right Bank wines of 1998 and the magical triple zero of millennium quality vintage 2000! However the release prices were fair value and I bought a few including the presently lovely drinking Pauillacs – especially the delicious Chateau d’Armailhac and more structured Chateau Pontet-Canet. This month I enjoyed an outstanding dinner experience of top Chinese food prepared at the new Mott 32 Restaurant (originated 1891) in Vancouver paired with 11 of the very best wines of 1999:

Roederer Cristal: Lovely iconic bubbles to start off with from a more generous elegant drinking vintage!

Tertre Roteboeuf: Dark deep enticing ripe Merlot blend very soft textured being almost 2003-like.

Pavie Macquin: Similar smooth St. Emilion styling with more intensity of mellow herbal notes.

Petrus: Higher class level of structured density with complex iron notes in harmonious concentrated fruit.

Domaine de Chevalier: Big surprise with open more balanced drier fruit but elegant delicious drinking.

Haut Brion: Easy winner of 2nd flight with mineral loaded graphite so stylish terroir singing brilliantly.

Palmer: Full easy forwardly sweet blend with impressive textures but less flowers than anticipated.

Lafite: Best bouquet of pure ethereal cedar with power + elegance from strict selection for Grand Vin definitely impresses and is arguably wine of the night!

Margaux: Very dark look more floral than expected with slightly dank cellar notes making it less pure for me as not the best example of a highly rated wine but has very solid richness nonetheless.

Latour: Also very deep but more closed in nose with concentrated full plums on entry with tannins so this should develop further and age well.

d’Yquem: Rich concentrated more accessible fruit here developing some complexity of apricot-orange, ginger and chocolate.

In summary these 11 wines from 1999 were all of much higher quality than expected from this under-rated vintage. Recommend them.

Check out the menu shown below for the different food matches they suggested go with top Bordeaux. Some less assertive flavoured protein dishes worked better than others showing spices and chili peppers but all proved interesting. Some excellent freshly chopped last minute made dim sum dumplings and siu mai paired perfectly with top Bordeaux.

Have you found any special Chinese dish that you prefer with aged red Bordeaux?

1999menu
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