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Home Wine Regions The Wines of British Columbia

The Wines of British Columbia

British Columbia has only been producing wines on a large scale for a couple generations now, and many are surprised it grows wine grapes at all. Those who tried early wines from this region may have dismissed it altogether. But the latest generation of wines coming from British Columbia have proven to be very competent entries into the global marketplace.

The very first wineries and wine grape vineyards in this region began in the 19th century as part of the Obelate Mission. But these wines weren't put on the open market until less than one hundred years ago.

The harsh weather throughout most of British Columbia is the primary reason why it is so difficult to do large scale wine making operations. Otherwise, this province alone would have more available space for vineyards than most of Europe. As it is, there are only about 100 wineries in British Columbia today.

It is in the large lake, valley, and mountainous regions where land is found in moderate enough climates for grape growing. A small portion of each of these regions will typically provide just enough warm weather and have just the right soil for growing grapes.

For example, the valley area around Okanagan Lake provides adequate conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Siegerrebe, Sylvaner, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Ortega. Among these, Merlot and Chardonnay are the most common. The Okanagan Valley is responsible for about 95% of the annual wine production in British Columbia.

The Coastal Mountain Range in British Columbia provides a lot of climatic help. It helps to keep humidity low. It also allows plenty of sunshine during the summer growing season. Rain totals are very similar to those found in the wine grape growing regions in California.

White wines produced here are usually either in the German or French traditions. The red Pinot Noir is said to be particularly remarkable with its very even body. Riesling is known for its sweet citrus flavors. Gray Monk Pinot Gris is also becoming popular.

In the German tradition, the local icewines are created here. These are made from grapes that are actually picked while frozen and crushed before they thaw. Once thought to be the sole domain of great German wineries, this icewine from British Columbia is gaining strong recognition.

Recently, Merlot that produces a foretaste of plum that transitions into an aftertaste of coffee is becoming very popular. It has a rivalry with the fine Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the Similkameen Valley. Ehrenfelser, Muscat, and  Siegerrebe are also worthy of mention.