The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 84 of 108

84 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2016 CAMP [ ] [ ] A Quiet Revolution in WHERE INNOVATIVE VINTNERS ARE CRAFTING CANADA'S WINE FUTURE 84 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2016 CRAFTING CANADA'S WINE FUTURE British Columbia Quietly, effectively, British Columbia is entering the collective consciousness of the international wine market for all the right reasons: Its leading growers and producers are focusing more and more on qualities that make their wines distinctively different from, rather than just comparable to, wines from elsewhere in the Old World, the New World or any other world. In the U.S. we have yet to see much of British Columbia's finest in our markets; but they are coming. During my second visit to the region in January I found even more of what I discovered during my first visit in 2015: sophisticated viticulture, state-of-the-art winer - ies and keenly aware producers taking full advantage of what might just as well have been a disadvantage—the fact that the British Columbia really did not get started until after the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988. These may be "new kids on the block," but they are taking full advantage of the most recent innovations and ideas proffered by the rest of the wine world in recent years. Prior to 1988, British Columbia was primarily planted to Vitis labrusca, hybrid grapes and German crossings invented for volume rather than quality production. Getting down to business, the handful of modern day pioneering producers existing at the time—just 17 of them—helped to establish the Vintner's Quality Alliance (VQA) standard in 1990, mandating the type of quality guarantees found in other appellation systems. Step 2 was the establishment of the BC VQA (British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance) appella - tions, called Geographical Indications (GIs); in con- junction with rapid expansion of classic Vitis vinifera plantings, such as Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon (the five most widely planted grapes in British Columbia today). Today there are over 10,200 acres (4,130 hectares) of wine grapes planted in six GIs, produced by over 250 wineries. But as the old saying goes, the middle of the road is where you're bound to get run over. Many of British Columbia's leaders, however, have wisely chosen not to stick to the straight and narrow—the safe, popular grapes or the conventional wine types. Instead, many British Columbia vintners are brazenly championing less fashionable varieties like Gamay Noir, Syrah and Riesling. Why? Because it's right for the terroir, if not necessarily the market. They are also mak - ing a specialty out of méthode ancestrale sparklers or skin-contact whites; or investing heavily in puncheons, demi-muids, foudres, amphorae, concrete uprights or eggs to an average extent going beyond what we are seeing in, say, California, Washington or Oregon. They are doing the things that only make sense when blessed with natural conditions unlike those anywhere else in the world: Cooler climate terroirs producing wines pre - disposed towards higher natural acidity and sensations of minerality, as opposed to universal renditions of "varietal fruit." Densities of phenolic presence on the palate possible in wine grapes grown above the 50° N latitudinal line (comparable to the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)—a direct result of extended photosynthesis during growing season days that are a good two hours longer than in traditional Mediterranean regions (i.e. Southern France, Spain, Italy or California's North Coast). The favorable potential to pick grapes of optimal maturity at lower sugars—hence, the possibility of sleeker, contemporary-style wines of moder - ated alcoholic weight. by Randy Caparoso The Cabernet Franc block at Culima Family Estate.

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