The History of Wine: British Columbia

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in BC Wineries, Wine Store Blog | 0 comments

The History of Wine: British Columbia

Over the next few blogs, I am going to take you on a jour­ney to one of my favourite wine pro­duc­ing regions: British Colum­bia, Canada. I will kick off my trib­ute to BC wines by dis­cussing its history.

British Colum­bia was pro­duc­ing wine as early as the late 1850’s, when a monk named father Pan­dosy set up the first white set­tle­ment in the Mis­sion area of Kelowna. He saw the poten­tial for pro­duc­ing wine for the holy sacra­ment and send word to Vat­i­can to have vines sent to him. For the next 70 plus years, BC would exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent styles of wine, mostly made from fruits such as blue­ber­ries and apples. Many of these attempts made it to liquor stores, but because of the poor wine mak­ing processes, would become faulted on the shelves and end up being thrown away.

In 1931, the first offi­cial com­mer­cial win­ery, Calona Winer­ies, began oper­a­tions in Kelowna. More than 82 years later, Calona is still pro­duc­ing wine. Calona, and other wine pro­duc­ers, started adding grapes to their wine recipes which caused a shift in the BC wine indus­try. The first grape to be used at this time was Labr­usca, an Amer­i­can vari­ety of wine grape that is usu­ally found on the East Coast. By the late 1960’s, new pro­duc­ers started to arrive in the Okana­gan to com­pete with the pop­u­lar Calona Wines. New­pro­duc­ers included Mis­sion Hill, Sumac Ridge, Grey Monk, and Cedar Creek.

BC wine did not become rec­og­nized in Canada until 1988 when Vint­ners Qual­ity Alliance (VQA) and the BC Wine Insti­tute were estab­lished. BC was rec­og­nized on a world stage in 1994 as a qual­ity wine pro­duc­ing region when wine­maker John Simes, from Mis­sion Hill Fam­ily Estates, won the award for Best Chardon­nay at the 1994 Inter­na­tional Wine and Spirit Com­pe­ti­tion for his 1992 Chardon­nay vintage.

Since 1994, BC winer­ies have received many awards for their table wines and ice wines, both nation­ally and internationally.

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has writ­ten 63 posts in this blog.

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