November 6, 2018
In my new life as a wine tour guide I spend a lot of time behind the scenes at wineries talking to winemakers owners and marketing staff. They alert me to upcoming releases of wines , vineyard acquisitions and all sorts of new things happening in the Okanagan wine scene. This invariably leads to discussions with the tour guests about what’s happening in the industry. I try to focus the discussion on trends that increase the wine quality or that raise the profile of the BC wine industry in a more general way.
One of the major trends in BC is wineries that explore the concept of Terroir . Terroir is a French word that means sense of place. It’s your vineyards aspect to the sun, soil type, diurnal temperature changes (daytime to nighttime ) and anything else that is different than your neighbour . If you can demonstrably show that your piece of dirt is significantly unique from another winery and makes a noticeable difference to the flavour , aromatics or structure to the wine you make you can legitimately charge more for the wine. In business we call that a unique selling proposition. This process has been under way in BC for awhile with varying degrees of success.
Why didn’t we do it right at the start of our wine industry ? The answer is it didn’t matter until it did matter. Cryptic huh ? When our industry was in it’s infancy Terroir was a detriment to it as we didn’t have the experience that well known Terroir regions of the world like France and Italy had. So the solution was to say it didn’t matter and that we were every bit as good as any other country ( even if we weren’t ) . With increased numbers of wineries and vineyards in BC we then had to stand out from our neighbouring winery. The best way to do that is to then say my piece of dirt is better than my completion down the street or down the valley. The viticulturists started to do soil pit tests, ground penetrating radar analysis and sophisticated temperature recording and modelling. The winemakers started identifying the specific Terroir locations on the properties and vinifying the lots separately . Suddenly they started to realize certain batches were more aromatic, deeper in colour or had a structure that would allow them to age longer. This experimentation leads to the identification of the best spots and Voila ! Single vineyard wines are born, you can charge more for your wine, brand expansion happens and if the market agrees with your assessment then your price for the vineyard can be substantially more when you sell.
Who does this well in British Columbia ? I’ll give you one example Synchromesh Winery in Okanagan Falls. Alan Dickinson is making world class Riesling that are unique , flavorful and compete with some of the best wines in the world. Buy them cellar them and thank me later. Just leave some for me.
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