Canada’s western province of British Columbia (BC), has approved six new sub-appellations for its most famous wine-growing region of Okanagan Valley.
The Okanagan Valley is BC’s largest appellation – called Geographical Indications (GIs) in Canada. And from a standing start in 2015, it now has 11 sub-GIs following the recent ratification.
The six new sub-GIs are: Summerland Valleys, Summerland Lakefront, Summerland Bench, East Kelowna Slopes, South Kelowna Slopes and Lake Country. They are now legally protected terms defining geographical areas of origin for BC wine.
They join five previously designated sub-GIs: Golden Mile Bench, Golden Mile Slopes, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, and Skaha Bench.
Pride and progress
The first wines with new sub-GI labels are now on shelves, including wines from O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars in Lake Country.
‘O’Rourke Family Estate and Peak Cellars wineries are proud to state Lake Country on 100% of our labels, recognising that our vineyards are within a very special area in the north Okanagan Valley,’ said winemaker Stephanie Stanley.
O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars spearheaded Lake Country’s sub-GI application with support from all the wineries in this northern area, including Gray Monk, Intrigue, Ex-Nihilo and Arrowleaf.
Several wineries led the application for South Kelowna Slopes and East Kelowna Slopes, including Cedar Creek, Summerhill and Tantalus Vineyards.
‘This is a key first step, but it’s not an overnight process,’ said David Paterson, winemaker/general manager at Tantalus. ‘Over the next decade, the most important thing will be for us to define what are the best wines coming out of our specific region and then make that mean something to consumers.’
The three Summerland applications were led by the Bottleneck Drive Association, which represents all 11 wineries in this region on the west side of Okanagan Lake. Rick Thrussell, owner of Sage Hills Winery, was a key driver.
Specific landforms define each sub-GI: soils, aspect, elevation, topography and landscapes that affect growing conditions. As the Okanagan Valley is glaciated terrain, formed in the last ice age, its soils are highly varied.
The Okanagan Valley is BC’s dominant winegrowing region, stretching 175km north-south in a narrow, lake-filled gorge. It accounts for 86% of the province’s total vineyard area and boasts a diverse range of grape varieties and wine styles.
At a glance: the six new Okanagan Valley sub-GIs
Lake Country 100ha of vines and 6 wineries
South Kelowna Slopes 131ha and 3 wineries
East Kelowna Slopes 82ha and 9 wineries
Summerland Bench 60ha and 10 wineries
Summerland Lakefront 65ha and 4 wineries
Summerland Valleys 34ha and 6 wineries