The BC Wine Industry Welcomes Six New Sub-GIs

Wine Growers of BC- BC Wine Regions Topo Map

Wine Growers of BC- BC Wine Regions Topo Map

In BC we relatively quickly learned that cooler climate grapes, like Riesling, did better in the north Okanagan, and warmer climate grapes, like Syrah, did better in the south Okanagan.  Similarly cooler climate grape varieties in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.  And more.  But we have had a few decades now to further refine these generalized grape growing regions into Geographical Indications and then further refine them into Sub Geographical Indications.  Here is the latest press release about new Sub GIs identified in BC.

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Kelowna, British Columbia: On Tuesday June 28, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food announced the approval of six new sub-Geographical Indications (sub-GIs) located in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Summerland Valleys, Summerland Lakefront, Summerland Bench, East Kelowna Slopes, South Kelowna Slopes, and Lake Country are now protected terms under BC law representing a geographical area of origin for 100% BC VQA wine.

The Okanagan Valley is BC’s largest winegrowing region (175 km north to south), comprising 86% of BC’s vineyards (9,617 planted acres) and offers a range of diverse soil types, climatic conditions and resulting styles of wine.

“The approval of these new sub-GIs represents official recognition of areas that stand out as having consistently unique terroir and we are thrilled to welcome six new distinct growing areas within the Okanagan Valley,” says Miles Prodan, President & CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia. “When a bottle of BC VQA wine is purchased, the consumer knows they are guaranteed assurance of quality and that it is 100% BC. The introduction of sub-regions of notable sense of place is the natural next step in the evolution of our wine industry.”

The wine regions of BC are identified by ‘Geographical Indications’ (GIs), furthermore by ‘sub Geographical Indications’ (sub-GIs). With a focus on terroir-driven wines, the BC wine industry is naturally looking towards recognizing unique growing areas within larger regions as ‘sub-GIs’ to further identify and understand BC’s diverse terroir, and to help tell the story of BC wine. Once approved, these sub-GIs can then be noted on wine labels to indicate a minimum of 95% of the grapes were grown from the specified region. British Columbia now features 21 Geographical Indications (10 GIs; 12 sub-GIs):
  • British Columbia
  • Vancouver Island (1 sub-GI)
    • Cowichan Valley
  • Gulf Islands
  • Fraser Valley
  • Lillooet
  • Thompson Valley
  • Shuswap 
  • Okanagan Valley (11 sub-GIs)
    • Lake Country
    • East Kelowna Slopes
    • South Kelowna Slopes
    • Summerland Valleys
    • Summerland Lakefront
    • Summerland Bench
    • Naramata Bench 
    • Skaha Bench
    • Okanagan Falls
    • Golden Mile Slopes
    • Golden Mile Bench
  • Similkameen Valley
  • Kootenays
History of BC Sub-Geographical Indications

History of BC Sub-Geographical Indications

The creation of a sub-GI is determined based on the science of terroir – soils, climate conditions, landforms, bodies of water, geographical boundaries – are all studied, with results comprised and included in a detailed technical report submitted to the BC Wine Authority. This regulatory process involves collaboration among regional producers to source and submit the proposal to prove defined boundaries and distinct terroir.

“As the ones who initiated the sub-GI process (for Lake Country), along with a dedicated team of fellow Lake Country grapegrowers and wineries, we are thrilled to officially celebrate ‘Lake Country’ as a sub-GI!” said Stephanie Stanley, Winemaker at Peak Cellars. “Both O’Rourke Family Estate and Peak Cellars wineries are proud to state Lake Country on 100% of our labels, recognizing that our vineyards are planted within a very special area in the north Okanagan Valley.”

“It’s great to see more recognition for our high-quality Okanagan Valley wines and for the regions’ winemakers and grapegrowers, many who have been part of the valley for generations,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food in the government issued media release. “BC wines tell a story of the people who make it and the unique places it comes from. By putting a spotlight on six new growing regions and their distinct wines, we are continuing to help BC wines grow in popularity on the world’s stage while giving a boost to the local economy.”

British Columbia is becoming globally recognized as a quality wine region producing world-class wines renowned for having bright natural acidity and intense ripe fruit flavours. As growers and winemakers gain more experience with British Columbian terroir, the nuances and qualities of each unique area starts to become apparent, and the wines continue to gain in complexity and excellence. The approval of these new sub-GIs is a win for both winegrowers and consumers alike.

Quick facts:
  • This year, British Columbia’s Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA) designation celebrates 32 years of quality assurance and 100% BC grown and produced grape wine.
  • BC’s wine industry has grown from just 19 grape wineries in 1990 to 284 today.
  • There are 11,086 acres (4,486 hectares) of wine grapes in British Columbia’s ten Geographical Indications (GIs): British Columbia, Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Thompson Valley, Lillooet, Shuswap and Kootenays.
  • The Okanagan Valley is the largest wine producing region in BC with 11 sub-GIs, 186 licensed grape wineries, and 9,617 acres of wine grapes planted.
  • The Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan Valley was BC’s first sub-GI established in 2015.
  • The BC wine industry contributes $2.8 billion annually to British Columbia’s economy.
  • Each year, BC’s wineries welcome more than 1,000,000 visitors.
Read the proposals and technical reports behind each new BC sub-GI at BCVQA.com.

Learn more about each of the wine regions of British Columbia at WineBC.com.

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