BC’s grape wine industry has grown from just 17 grape wineries in 1990 to more than 280 today. (Contributed)

B.C. wineries remain optimistic about quality of grape harvest

B.C. is home to more than 900 vineyards, including 370 licensed wineries

The British Columbia grape harvest is in full swing and despite a wetter than average September, B.C. winemakers are remaining optimistic that this year’s vintage will be another good year.

According to the British Columbia Wine Institute, vineyards are embracing the lower sugar and alcohol levels that they are seeing in grapes across the Okanagan.

“Every year presents challenges,” notes Grant Stanley, winemaker and general manager at Spearhead Winery.

“For me, that’s part of the fun of it. Particularly as cool-climate winemakers, adapting to the season is what we do.”

Stanley also credited the moderate climate throughout 2019 as particularly good for crops.

“Without a doubt, the moderate heat extending throughout the season has brought about grape ripeness without any sun burning or threat of over-ripeness. The yields have been similar to have what we’ve seen in the past as well. We had a lot of small berries and good pulp to skin ratio which is perfect for making Pinot Noir. I’m really looking forward to the Pinot Noirs this vintage.”

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In Osoyoos, where it’s much warmer than the rest of the valley, Chris Tolley, owner and winemaker at Moon Curser Vineyards said it was worrisome at first to see frost in September, but he is pleasently surprised with the harvest so far.

“We’ve had a very good season. Our whites, the Arneis and Viognier, were all quite ripe in both sugar and flavor. I’m happy so far with the reds as well. The Tempranillo came in really nice. I’m happy with the Malbec and Carmenere as well. We haven’t seen it all yet, but I’ve tasted the berries and I’m pleased with the quality.”

In the Naramata Bench, Kathy Malone, winemaker at Hillside Winery, said she has seen lower sugars and alcohols in this year’s vintage, which she is optimistic about.

“I think vintage variation makes it more interesting for the wine drinker because they can look at what was happening during that year and experience it through what they’re tasting in the glass. It adds an element of sophistication to the region.”

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