Wines of British ColumbiaThe 2016 Vintage
BC’s 2016 vintage started off with an uncommonly hot spring in its two largest producing wine regions: the Okanagan Valley and the Similkameen Valley. Osoyoos experienced more Growing Degree Days (GDD) in April than any other April in the last 19 years. Temperatures reached the high 20s throughout the neighbouring valleys causing the earliest budbreak on record, as much as six weeks early. GDD remained ahead of any other year with temperatures reaching the mid to high 30s until the end of June. Temperatures dropped in July to the low 20s with August returning to warmer, dry weather.
“Without the blistering high heat that sometimes occurs in July and August, the grapes had more time to mature and we are seeing phenomenal balance with low alcohol and balanced acidity,” notes David Paterson, GM and winemaker at Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna. “Overall, I think we’re looking at a beautiful vintage.”
I think we’re looking at a beautiful vintage.
Charlie Baessler, winemaker at Corcelettes Estate Winery in Keremeos is excited about the 2016 vintage. “Similkameen Valley wineries will have another fantastic vintage to showcase. The alcohol is balanced and we will be able to express varietal character and our mineral terroir,” explains Baessler.
Budbreak in the Fraser Valley arrived four weeks ahead of normal. The Fraser Valley saw some challenging weather conditions, but a warm, dry August led to excellent grape development with beautiful flavours and balanced acids and sugars.
Andrew Etsell, GM and viticulturist at Singletree Winery in Abbotsford, reports their harvest began August 25 with Siegerrebe. This was their earliest start to harvest on record. Etsell says, “The 2016 vintage will offer incredible fruit, which in turn will make some great quality wine.”
Lamont Brooks of the Wine Islands Growers Association notes that, “Overall, 2016 was an excellent year, characterized by an unusually warm April and May, which got the vines off to a very fast start.”
2016 was an excellent year, characterized by an unusually warm April and May.
Harvest on Vancouver Island started within a week of normal with reports of picking on September 10 for Siegerrebe. Brook says the overall fruit quality at his Symphony Vineyard in Saanich is fantastic. “[It’s the] best harvest parameters we have ever seen in most varietals, especially Pinot Gris,” he describes.
In BC’s emerging wine regions, the growing season was similar to the Okanagan Valley, with few differences. Monte Creek Ranch Winery reported budbreak in late April–the earliest ever recorded in the Thompson region. A warm spring, but relatively cool summer, put the harvest about a week behind last year, but still about three weeks earlier than is normal. Their first day of crush was August 22 with Marquette (for Rosé). Harper’s Trail Winery in Kamloops reported their first crush on August 31 of Gewürztraminer. The region is expecting a great vintage with concentrated and flavourful fruit.
Twenty-three wineries were registered with the BC Wine Authority to pick an estimated 896 standard tons of Icewine grapes. Harvest started December 6, 10 days later than in 2015. Kalala Organic Estate Winery in West Kelowna was the first to pick (Chardonnay, Riesling and Zweigelt) with temperatures ranging between -8° and -9° C.
Further south, Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards viticulturist Troy Osborne said they began picking Riesling on the morning of December 8. With temperatures averaging -12° C, Osborne was pleased with the concentration of the fruit, which averaged 42 Brix. “The grapes went through a couple of freeze/thaw periods before picking, which gives the flavour characteristics we want for Icewine.”
By the end of 2016, 18 wineries had brought in an estimated 600 tons of grapes, 224 more tons than last year’s total harvest.
In summary, early spring heat kicked off an excellent growing season, slowed down by a cooler start to the summer and an extended fall season. The 2016 vintage will show an excellent balance of moderate alcohol, retention of natural acidity for which BC wine is known, ripe tannins and beautiful, concentrated flavours. Find out for yourself; 2016 BC VQA white wines are hitting store shelves now.
Lisa Braman is Industry Communications Manager at the BC Wine Institute.