Decanter's consultant editor visited dozens of vineyards and tasted hundreds of wines in six full days in British Columbia. Here are a few of the best that he picked out...
Steven Spurrier on British Columbia wines
While some European and even New World countries might have a much longer history and grander wines, I have seldom encountered such beautiful scenery and such passionate viticulturists and winemakers, while tasting wines of such encouraging quality.
For me, wine is all about the three Ps: the place, the people and the product. British Columbia wines tick all three boxes with exuberance, elegance and conviction.
Scroll down to see Steven Spurrier’s top wines
Warmer and more arid than Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley gets nearly two hours more sunlight per day during the peak of the July-August growing season, with great temperature differences between day and night helping to retain freshness.
For my palate, the overall style of British Columbia wines is Old World rather than New World.
British Columbia white wines
Chardonnay is well represented, showing more richness than from the cooler Ontario vineyards around Niagara on Canada’s east coast, but not over-oaked.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc show well, with a similarity to Alsace; Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are recognisably varietal, often with added flair; but my long-term bet would be on Riesling, whose floral, lifted yet broad fruit and typical acidity go so well with the local fish dishes.
British Columbia red wines
Among the reds, Pinot Noir stood out for me, with its Burgundian profile, and the Syrah wines – correctly French in name and style – are attracting justified attention.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are reliable, but Cabernet Franc shows more character, while Petit Verdot and Malbec are playing a strong role in the Bordeaux blends.
Meanwhile, a 2013 Gamay from Blue Mountain was the best I’ve tasted outside Beaujolais.
All the wineries are open to the public and many have restaurants, so, rather like Virginia, more than half the wines are sold direct, with markets in Canada and the US taking most of the rest.
Fewer than 12 estates export to the UK, so the wines below are well worth seeking out.
Steven Spurrier is Decanter’s consulting editor and chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards. His trip to British Columbia was organised with enthusiastic precision by the British Columbia Wine Institute.