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Good and bad news for oenophiles—and even casual drinkers of BC wines

Expect fewer BC wines to hit the shelf thanks to last winter's freezing temperatures

Mark Brennae
June 28, 2023
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Good and bad news for oenophiles—and even casual drinkers of BC wines

Expect fewer BC wines to hit the shelf thanks to last winter's freezing temperatures

Mark Brennae
Jun 28, 2023
A Vancouver Island vineyard. Photo: Shutterstock
A Vancouver Island vineyard. Photo: Shutterstock
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Good and bad news for oenophiles—and even casual drinkers of BC wines

Expect fewer BC wines to hit the shelf thanks to last winter's freezing temperatures

Mark Brennae
June 28, 2023
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Good and bad news for oenophiles—and even casual drinkers of BC wines
A Vancouver Island vineyard. Photo: Shutterstock

The bad news is there's going to be less BC wine to go around this summer. 

The good news—and we can all raise a glass to this—is that although last winter's freezing temperatures in BC Wine Country may have left winemakers with fewer grapes to squish into a succulent, savory sip, you shouldn't expect the price of BC wines to go up.

"We're aware consumers have other options," says Miles Prodan, president and CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia. "Because the supply is limited, we would not take advantage of that because we would price ourselves out of the market."

Temperatures in the Okanagan plummeted to -30C and beyond last December, damaging vines and putting the industry in short- and long-term risk.

Area wineries didn’t have to deal with the flash freeze here in Victoria, and while Prodan couldn’t say how many of BC’s 451 licensed wineries were hit by the cold snap, the damage is serious.

"About 80% of all grapes grown here in BC, happen in the south Okanagan, sort of between Penticton and down to Osoyoos, so you can imagine that's 80% of our crop. And of that 80%, it looks as though only half of that is going to be producing grapes this vintage."

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being cabernet catastrophe, Prodan ranks the situation as an eight.

“Wineries are only going to have about half as much wine as they usually do.”

A recent report commissioned by Wine Growers British Columbia found the Yuletide freeze-out resulted in the industry's worst fear: a 54% reduction in grape and wine production for 2023 vintage.

This will affect revenues of both vineyards and wineries, tax revenues collected by the government, as well as jobs, with some 380 full-time workers likely to be laid off, the report said.

The report also found the following agricultural and economic impacts:

  • 45% of total plant acreage suffered long-term damage
  • 29% of total acreage needs to be replanted
  • $133M in direct winery revenue loss
  • More than $200M in indirect economic revenue loss to suppliers, BC Liquor Stores, restaurants etc.
  • A 20% reduction in full-time vineyard and winery employment

BC winemakers likely will have to make difficult decisions to deal with the significant drop in expected revenues, Prodan says. And that includes letting workers go and possibly closing tasting rooms. “You have half the income coming in,” says Prodan, adding the wine industry has been battling climate change for years and it's only getting worse. “We have been seeing an ongoing decline in the quantity of grapes our vineyards have been producing. And that’s been exacerbated by what happened in December.” 

Prodan wants both the provincial and federal governments to pony up some help. 

He says winemakers need the province to re-up its replanting programs and they need the feds to include wineries in their agri-recovery program so wineries can replace damaged vines.

“Those vines have been injured—that’s why they’ll only be producing half the grapes—and so you have to spend as much, if not more time tending to those and so that’s an increase in costs.

You’ve got half the income coming in and you’ve got an increase in your vineyard management costs because of this damage.”

Prodan says he can only hope governments in both Victoria and Ottawa are paying attention.

“The alarm has now been sounded—there’s only going to be half as much wine produced so wineries are needing to make some decisions on controlling costs and that may be laying off winemakers, (and possibly,) shutting down the tasting rooms.”

That would have a huge impact on tourism, which is big in the Okanagan, with an estimated 1.2 million tourists visiting wineries each year.

"Climate change is having an effect on grape production," Prodan says. "Combine those two [challenges] and it's really affecting our industry."

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