For Immediate Release:
January 21, 2020
- @WineBCdotcom raises a glass to 30 years of #BCVQA #Wine! #BCWine30Yrs
- Congratulations #BCWine industry! Here’s to 30 years of #BCVQA #Wine in 2020! #BCWine30Yrs @WineBCdotcom
British Columbia – 2020 marks 30 years of BC VQA Wine, and the Wines of British Columbia are celebrating with a look back at the industry’s history and how we’ve got to where we are today.
In 1990, a small group of visionary winemakers, grapegrowers and industry leaders came together to create the British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA) and the BC Wine Institute (BCWI). The BC VQA standard was created to guarantee consumers they were drinking wine made from 100% BC grown grapes. Today, thanks to the efforts of these pioneers, and those who continue to innovate and push boundaries, BC VQA Wines now dominate wine sales in British Columbia and are finding their way to more places than ever before, winning over both critics and consumers internationally.
“This anniversary is a celebration of the success and growth of BC VQA Wine over the last 30 years,” comments Miles Prodan, President & CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “BC VQA Wine would not be what it is today without the incredible vision, collaboration and determination of our industry.”
Prior to 1990, apart from a few industry pioneers, most of the grapes grown in BC were hybrids, and the growers’ focus was on quantity rather than quality. That all changed with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States. With the onset of free trade, the government gave the option for growers to remove their vines and plant a different crop. Two-thirds of the 3,400 grape acreage was removed leaving just 1,134 acres of grapes in 1990, only half of which was estimated to be vinifera grapes.
“This had a huge impact on the industry,” says Lanny Martiniuk, one of the founding members of the BCWI and creator of Stoneboat Vineyards. “Many growers lost their vineyards. We realized we had to do something that would help us produce better grapes and convince the public that we were producing better wine. We (the BCWI founders) consulted with the wineries and proposed to the government that the only way to make this happen was to become a premium wine region.”
This launched the subsequent planting of quality vinifera varieties which saw the beginning of the modern BC wine industry and the impressive BC wine we enjoy today.
George Heiss, also a founding member of the BCWI and creator of Grey Monk Estate Winery, vividly recalls the days of having to convince the trade and consumers that BC could produce quality wines competitive with the rest of the world.
“Back then, BC wines were not well-received. If the wine wasn’t French, no one was looking at it. We ran into that everywhere when trying to get BC wine into hotel restaurants or onto shelves. We had to create a standard. If a wine region doesn’t have a quality standard, it just can’t compete with the rest of the world,” he says.
Christa-Lee McWatters, President & CEO of Encore Vineyards and daughter of late Harry McWatters ̶ who was the founding Chair of the BCWI and a driving force in the British Columbia wine industry ̶ credits BC wine industry employees for their dedication to making the industry what it is today.
“My entire life and career have been in the BC wine industry. I am so proud of and grateful to everyone who makes it happen,” she says. “There are so many people that make this industry what it is. From the seasonal worker who helps with picking the harvest to the cellar workers hosing out tanks, the wine shop employees, sales agents, and the sommeliers and retailers who get our wines into peoples’ glasses. Most of all, I am grateful to the wine ̵ loving public who continue to reach for BC wine.”
Thanks to this continued determination and passion, the BC wine industry has grown exponentially over the past 30 years, expanding to 282 licensed grape wineries today from just 19 in 1990. The number of BC vineyards has also grown from 115 in 1990 to more than 929 today. And with only 157 certified BC VQA wines in 1990, today more than 2,100 BC wines carry the designation.
“There’s a trust now that is synonymous with BC VQA Wine. Given our success in making quality wines, I’d say, if we’ve done this in just 30 years, we’re only getting started,” said Martiniuk.
To honour this milestone year, the Wines of British Columbia are bringing together the pioneers and innovators of the future. Special events, commemorative videos and campaigns are scheduled throughout the year inviting industry, trade and consumers to celebrate 30 years of BC VQA Wine. Visit WineBC.com.
To the visionaries who forged our industry’s path, and to those who continue to innovate and push boundaries, here’s to 30 years of beautifully crafted BC VQA wines.
– 30 –
30th anniversary graphic and digital assets:
- Video: Celebrate the Moments
- Then & Now stats infographic
- Social Media assets
- 30th anniversary & Wines of British Columbia logo
About British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI):
Since 1990, the BCWI has played a pivotal role in taking BC’s wine industry from a vision to an internationally recognized niche region producing premium wines and providing exceptional wine tourism experiences. The BCWI markets the wine and regions of BC; delivers quality trade, media and consumer tastings; and acts as the voice of BC’s wine industry by advocating to government on behalf of industry that contributes $2.8 billion in provincial economic growth annually.
The BCWI represents all wineries in British Columbia to grow the premium market share for the Wines of British Columbia, while driving awareness of our world-class wines and tourism product ̶ currently drawing 1,000,000 visitors with $600 million in tourism and tourism employment related economic impact every year.
For more information about BC Wine Institute’s programs and services, please visit WineBC.com.
Follow us on social media at the Wines of British Columbia Facebook page and follow @WineBCdotcom on Twitter and Instagram.