By Anthony Gismondi
The best news to come out of B.C. as far as wine goes this week has nothing to do with taxes, wholesale prices or a�� mercifully a�� Justice Minister Suzanne Antona��s office.
Instead it is the story of a handful of plucky south Okanagan winegrowers whose diligent work and perseverance has resulted in a final announcement declaring the Golden Mile Bench the first wine sub-region to gain geographical indication status in B.C.
The birth of the Golden Mile Bench G.I., located south of Oliver along the western extremities of the Okanagan Valley, is what many hope is the first of several changes to the B.C. wine atlas in the coming years.
The map has stood still since the early 1990s when, under the original VQA program, six very large geographical areas a�� British Columbia, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan Valley, the Similkameen Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Gulf Islands a�� were given legal status on wine labels.
Historically the worlda��s finest wine regions have been sub-divided over time to place a spotlight on the single best plots of vineyard land in the region.
Consumers can expect to see the Golden Mile Bench designation printed on several labels in the coming months as wineries making wine with grapes grown inside the newly minted boundaries release their latest bottles.
a�?After careful study and scientific analysis, the Golden Mile Bench has been identified for the unique character of its wines made from grapes grown here,a�? says Don Triggs, owner of Culmina Family Estate Winery.
The scientific parameters for the Golden Mile Bench sub-GI include slope, soil, and elevation or aspect, as mapped in partnership with scientists from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre a�� Summerland (AAFC-PARC Summerland).
Sub appellations can be complicated, but ita��s all in how you look at it. When you are buying wine labelled Okanagan Valley what that really means is the grapes in the bottle could be grown anywhere from Osoyoos to Vernon. Thata��s 175 kilometres of distance, not unlike driving from West Vancouver to Hope.
On a summera��s day the temperature in Hope versus West Vancouver a�� or Osoyoos versus Vernon a�� can be substantially higher, not to mention differences in soil, wind, rain and so much more, hence the need for more specificity on wine labels.
It is a lot of land a�� or terroir as winegrowers like to say a�� to blanket with a single appellation, which is why more meaningful sub-appellations are required to identify the many smaller, unique spaces across the province. By differentiating sites, growers can be concentrate on growing better grapes that express the land they are grown upon.
Our only hope to capture the worlda��s attention is to produce unique wines, and by definition that requires farming very specific appellations.
In the case of the Golden Mile Bench GI there were three main factors that determined its boundaries. The first is slope: fluvial fans with an easterly-facing slope of between 5 to 15 per cent create their own mesoclimate catching the warm morning sun and aavoiding the baking heat of the late day. The slope also promotes vital air drainage to prevent frosts and dry the vines after rain storms.
The Golden Mile bench dirt (soil) is mostly uniform, boasting a coarse texture without any water table influence in the root zone. Ita��s derived entirely from geological formations of Mount Kobau.
Finally, elevation or aspect plays a role, with minimum elevations defined by the base of Hester and Tinhorn Creek escarpments while the maximum height sits at the apex of the Reid Creek fan.
a�?Wine is as much about place as it is anything elsea�?, states Bill Eggert, owner of Fairview Cellars. a�?Having a legal definition of where our wine comes from is a huge step forward for us and the entire industry.a�?
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