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4 Exciting BC Wine Trends To Look For in 2023

4 New BC Wine Trends

Here are 4 exciting BC wine trends to watch for in 2023! 

The last few years have shown us that the world is changing fast. The climate is changing and consumers are altering their purchases to match their concern for the environment. At the same time, the hardworking people  behind the labels of the BC wine industry are maturing and really coming into their own. So with examples from the glass,  here are the 4 exciting BC wine trends to watch for in 2023!

 

 

 

4 Exciting BC Wine Trends to Watch for in 2023

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Generally, BC Producers are Moving Away from New Oak Barrels and this is an Exciting BC Wine Trend !

The Arguments For Using Less New Oak

I like compare the use of new oak barrels to makeup. Most of the time, light mascara will do the trick. Only very rarely, is it appropriate to wear the full gamut of makeup layers.
 

How does the ‘makeup’ analogy apply to winemaking?

With new oak barrels, only wines made from particular grape varieties grown with sufficient fruit concentration can handle a lot of new oak.

The Merits of New Oak

Top red wines from Napa Valley and Bordeaux have tons of fruit concentration. Therefore, their flavours are enhanced with long ageing in small, new oak barrels.

Toasty oak barrels bring deliciously sweet, spice tones of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove to wine. Therefore, it’s a flavour that most people love.

 

4 exciting BC wine trends
brand new small oak barrels (225 litre size) add sweet spice tones of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove to wines

 

However, for many subregions in British Columbia, it’s simply too far north and the growing season too short to gain the same level of fruit concentration as the best wines of Napa Valley or Bordeaux. It’s why we are generally known for wonderful cool climate varieties such as Riesling and Pinot Noir.

 
The point is, we need to scale back our use of oak for many of our wines.
 
Therefore, I’m over the moon that BC wine producers are doing just that!
 

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Monte Creek Winery, Kamloops

 
 
To this point, my tasting notes over the years from my visits to Monte Creek Winery in the Thompson Valley near  Kamloops show that the fruit comes first with light oak application in their wines. You can browse my tasting notes and my subsequent interview of winemaker Galen Barnhardt at Monte Creek here .

 

Blue Grouse Winery, Vancouver Island

 

In fact some wineries, such as Blue Grouse Winery on Vancouver Island, eschew new oak barrels altogether. Instead, their Pinot Noir is aged in clay amphora vessels which allows the delicate, fragrant strawberry fruit on the wine to shine!
 
Using clay amphora to age wine is as old as winemaking itself. In fact, they are the original wine vessels from 6000 years ago in Georgia – where vitis vinifera wine grapes were born!
 

 

Picnic at Daydreamer Wines in Naramata, BC

BC Wines Made from Pinot Gris are World Class!

Pinot Gris is certainly a fashionable grape worldwide. Yet, it rarely excites professional palates.

The grape isn’t overly aromatic or acidic. In fact, Pinot Gris’ popularity could quite simply be because it just rarely offends anyone.

Yet, there are 2 classic wine regions that are famous for producing magnificent Pinot Gris. The first, are the rich and ripe Pinot Gris wines from Alsace, France. The second, is the crisper, lighter northern Italian Pinot Grigio wines from hillsides in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia or Trentino-Alto-Adige.

 

 

 

So, Is BC Pinot Gris more like Alsace or northern Italy in style?
What can I expect from a BC Pinot Gris?

Where does BC Pinot Gris sit on this spectrum?

Well, I suppose the wines are closer to the northern Italian style. But…

BC Pinot Gris can have both the less ripe lime juice and pear notes of northern Italy but these are often accompanied with riper peach and nectarine notes. Moreover, they are a bit more intense in flavour than the wines of northern Italy.
 
While tasting the range of flavours in any given BC Pinot Gris (those of both the underripe fruit and ripe stone fruits), a notable lazer-beam focused, fresh acid streak will slice through your mouth.
 
You know, that tart taste that forms a ceaseless line along the sides of your cheeks when you sip wines from cool climates? That IS BC-grown natural acidity and it’s has a beautiful presence in BC Pinot Gris.
 
But there’s more to why BC Pinot Gris is an exciting BC wine trend. See #3 below.
 
 

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BC Winemaker's are Utilizing Winemaking Techniques that Add Creamy Textures - a super exciting BC wine trend

The skill behind so many of the wines shines through the glass when you sip on a neutral grape variety like Pinot Gris.
 
For example, many BC producers are opting for some type of neutral vessel to age their wine in. Neutral vessles such as barrel puncheons, larger oak vessels, unlined cement vats, or the clay amphora mentioned above provide intentional oxidation of the wines resulting in a satisfying creaminess in the wine.
 
For example, Blue Grouse Winery (mentioned above) uses seasoned oak puncheons for their 2021 Pinot Gris.
 
Puncheons are 500 litre barrels – a size deemed too large to bring any toasty oak flavours like vanilla and baking spice to the wines. Instead, the grain in the wood allows tiny amounts of oxygen in the wine.
 
Wine tasting descriptions such as rounded, creamy, beeswax, honey or yogurt are common words to describe wines that have been fermented or aged in neutral vessels that allow that air ingress.
 
 
Clos du Soleil Winery- Similkameen. Exciting BC wine trend
Clos de Soliel Winery grows grapes organically in the Similkameen Valley, BC

Clos de Soleil 'Winemaker's Secret Pinot Gris 2020

Clos de Soleil is located in the Similkameen Valley – just over the hillside from its more famous cousin, the Okanagan Valley. Although I’m highlighting Pinot Gris here, I’ll say that Clos de Soleil’s entire lineup of wines is worth checking out.

With their ‘Winemaker’s Secret’ Pinot Gris 2020, the creaminess, sour yogurt and nutty almond flavour is both from lees ageing and from oak puncheons.

The trick here is that Clos de Soleil’s winemaker makes a portion of the wine in stainless steel and then blends it with the wine aged in oak puncheons. Therefore, the final wine is a blend that is more than the sum of its parts. The fruits range from just ripe lime citrus all the way to nectarine. It’s a tightrope walk between freshness and textural richness providing great satisfaction.

 

Phantom Creek Pinot Gris 2020

 

Phantom Creek is a relative newcomer as the winery just started in 2016. Yet, it’s a ‘no-expense spared’ project and they’ve hired ‘big guns’ Olivier Humbrecht MW from Zind-Humbrecht wines in Alsace as a consultant viticulturalist and winemaker for their outstanding version of BC Pinot Gris. Here the texture is from ageing 40% of the wine in Austrian oak foudre and slower fermentation using only indigenous yeasts. Foudre barrels can be anywhere from 20 – 120 hectolitres large.
 
Perhaps not surprisingly, Austrian oak is a traditional vessel choice in Alsace, France.
 

 

exciting bc wine trend

Noble Ridge Pinot Gris 2021

 

Preston Radford, the Director of Sales and Hospitality at Noble Ridge poured me their Pinot Gris 2021. He introduced it to me as being in the ‘Italian Pinot Grigio’ style. But I can attest that most Italian Pinot Grigios don’t deliver quite this much in texture (yes, indeed some of them do!)
 

The Noble Ridge Pinot Gris has that creamy, silky feel too. In this case, the creaminess came from the 3 different yeast strains they use to make the wine.

As a side note, Noble Ridge’s wines are worth seeking out if you are looking for wines that consistently over-deliver for their price.

 

These examples above are why I say BC wine producers are making world-class Pinot Gris.

Whether the wine is lime juice and pear fruit focused, or riper stone fruit-peach notes;  they all walk a lovely balance between cheek-sucking high acid and mouth-filling layers of creamy texture.

They absolutely offer a next level in hedonistic pleasure!

 

More and More are Moving Towards Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Practices - an Exciting BC Wine Trend!

The final trend I notice in BC is that more and more BC wineries are moving towards sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices. Not only is this a wine trend welcomed by environmentalists, it’s also a trend towards wine quality. These viticultural practices are linked to increased soil health.

 

[For more on this read, 4 Reasons Why Soil Type Matters]

Matt Dumayne, Chief Winemaker at Okanagan Crush Pad said to me years ago, “If your in the Okanagan Valley and your not growing organically, you’re stupid!”

I love plain spoken people. It honestly doesn’t matter to me if I agree with what they say or not. I find them refreshing to be around.

What Matt is saying ssentially, is that BC subregions such as the Okanagan Valley, the Similkameen Valley, and the Thompson Valley are dry. There’s hardly any humidity throughout the growing season.

As a consequence, producers can farm without sprays (chemical fungicides, pesticides and herbicides) relatively easily.

It’s fantastic to see more and more BC producers are moving in this direction.

For example, family-owned Blue Grouse winery in Cowichan on Vancouver Island has plans to be fully sustainable and organic by the end of 2023. The facility uses lightweight wine bottles to reduce the carbon footprint and geothermal heating and cooling in the winery. Subsequently, Blue Grouse is seriously attacking our impact on the climate.

Noble Ridge winery (mentioned above) is certified with both Sustainable Winegrowing BC and with Tota’s Biosphere Commitment Program.

Clos de Soleil grows organically grown grapes in Keremeos, just 7 km east of the town of Cawston, the Organic Farming Capital of Canada, the Similkameen.

Blue Grouse Winery, Cowichan, Vancouver Island, B
Blue Grouse Winery on Vancouver Island

More and More BC Wineries are Getting Certified

There was a time when it was common for BC wine growers to say they were committed to the environment. At the same time they did this without investing in any certification or in setting goals to aim for achievements.

With certification, outside impartial bodies inspect the property for compliance. Sure, there are some valid criticisms of certain certifying associations. But overall, they ensure wineries set goals and timelines whilst providing quality feedback and expertise.

Along this strain, Black Hills Winery has achieved Environmental Farm Plan Status by the B.C. Environmental Farm Plan. This means that they are working with the Investment Agriculture Program to lessen the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Summary

I couldn’t be more excited about what’s trending in British Columbia wine today! From an industry that really only took off in the 90’s, wine producers in the province are truly coming into their own.

In general, BC producers are using less new oak in their wine making regime than previously. This puts the fruit foremost in your mouth. On the same token, toasty oak flavours are now just a highlight or enhancement – the way they should be.

Secondly, winemakers in the region are increasingly utilizing vessels other than new oak for ageing their wines. Large Austrian foudre vats, unlined cement eggs, old oak puncheans, amphora and utilizing specific yeast strains are adding texture, mouthfeel and complexity to wines. In particular, I’ve tasted creamy tones; beeswax, honey and lemon curd in Pinot Gris wines from throughout province.

Recent tastings prove that there are many skilled hands spread throughout the BC wine industry.

One of the more obvious examples of this is in the way Pinot Gris is being handled in BC. By most standards, Pinot Gris isn’t an exciting grape. However, with its mix of mouthwatering acids and creamy textures, BC Pinot Gris is world class.

Finally, I’m seeing more and more producers adopting sustainable, organic or biodynamic practices. Most importantly, they are utilizing modern scientific means to track their imprint on the environment and set goals to improve practices for the future.

 

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