The growing British Columbia wine industry’s largest Geographical Indication, the Okanagan Valley, has the potential to be divided into distinct and marketable sub-Geographical Indications (sub-GIs).
Sub-Geographical Indications are a result of the geographical distinctiveness and resulting wine styles of an area. The Golden Mile Bench south of Oliver is the only official sub-GI in the Okanagan Valley GI. The northern Okanagan was identified in the BC Wine Appellation Task Force 2016 Report as a possible sub-GI, capable of establishing a landscape identity and expression of terroir. This region extends from the southern tip of Kalamalka Lake, north to Armstrong, and east to Lumby. While there are currently small vineyards, there are no existing farm-gate wineries in region. The northern Okanagan region offers a rare opportunity to preemptively establish not only one, but four sub-GIs, based on historical sense of place, grape growing potential, physical geography, and changing climate. This report recommends the establishment of four distinct sub-GIs within the northern Okanagan region, as well as three grape varietals to establish the overall region’s brand.
A key challenge of this report was the lack of consolidated geographic data; notably, the northern Okanagan Valley was excluded from the commonly referenced Atlas of Suitable Grape Growing Locations in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys of British Columbia (1984). Therefore authors collected primary data on soil type, drainage, degree days and precipitation, as well as secondary date on other geological, topographical, historical and cultural aspects of the region, then mapped the data with GIS to explore patterns and establish sub-GI identities.
Spallumcheen Valley, Ogopogo Ridge, Coldstream, and Kalamalka Slopes were identified as four distinct sub-Geographical Indications within the northern Okanagan region. Each sub-GI has the potential to express a unique terroir based on varied landscape, distinct soil, climate, aspect, place identity and history.
Tempranillo, Barbera and Moscato grape varietals have the potential to perform well within the climate and physical geography, establishing a complementary suite of products uniquely expressed in each sub-Geographical Indication. Tempranillo is the fastest growing wine varietal for consumption across the globe and produces a quality red table wine with aging potential. Barbera is a more accessible and ready-to-drink red varietal that makes an excellent food wine. It is also an economical choice with high yields, often producing a moderate second crop. Moscato is a versatile aromatic white varietal that can produce a table wine, sparkling wine or late-harvest dessert wine. Importantly, since these three grapes are less common in B.C., the wine varietals will create distinct personalities for the four proposed sub-GIs, with distinct expressions due to the variations of landscape and climate. The four varietals offer a complete suite of structured reds, rosé, white, sparking and fortified wines.
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