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For these three standout BC wine picks, timing is everything.
Harvest is traditionally a time of celebration, but this year’s crop in the Okanagan is a decidedly bittersweet affair. While it will be rewarding to bring the grapes in, the numbers will be historically low thanks to the unprecedented vine damage that occurred last winter. Wine lovers are quick to feel empathy when they hear about their fave producers getting hit by fires or flood, but the freeze that happened last December was a catastrophe on a far higher level. Here’s the bottom line: the harvest is forecast to be 54 percent less than normal, with 45 percent of the vines suffering long-term damage and 29 percent requiring complete replanting.
Which all offers a perfect chance for us to rally around these wineries and snap up the bottles they are releasing. And while we think of harvest as a generic term, the reality is that in a highly variable climatic zone like the Okanagan, where we grow such a vast array of grape varietals, there will be some producers who pick grapes as early as mid-August and others who might start as late as October—and that’s not even considering the hardy souls who brave the freezing temperatures to make ice wine. But even with those broad guidelines, there is much variation within each window of picking time. Do you want your chardonnay to be light and crisp or round and warm? Will your cabernet franc be juicy or powerful? Here are three options that celebrate three distinctive stages of harvest.
It’s odd to think of red grapes, even the delicate pinot noir, as early ripeners, but for his sparkling wine, winemaker David Paterson wants low alcohol and elevated acidity (this wine is fantastically vibrant) so these grapes are often the first picked on the East Kelowna Tantalus estate. tantalus.ca
Viognier is traditionally one of the latest white grapes to be harvested, as winemakers want to exploit the signature perfumed nose and soft, rich mouthfeel, but Liquidity’s Amy Paynter picks hers early to craft a viognier that has more acidity than most (plus elegant, light, elevated florals). liquiditywines.com
Cabernet franc is always near the last to be harvested: picked too early, it displays green and overly herbaceous qualities—but leave it too long and it can become hot and flabby. Phantom Creek’s Mark Beringer chooses the perfect middle ground, keeping some freshness and wild herb characteristics as a partner to the ripe dark cherry and black currant notes. phantomcreekestates.com
This story was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of Vancouver Magazine.