WINTER – A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A BC WINE FARMER
BC’s thriving wine industry attracts talented winemakers from across Canada and around the world.
Each of these trained professionals has brought his or her knowledge, passion and fresh ideas to our wine
communities helping to shape an identity and style unique to British Columbia.
Ever wondered what (and who) it takes to create BC’s spectacular wines? As part of our ‘Year in the Life’ series,
hear from BC’s as they talk through the winter season.
“I love wine farming because its dirt-to-glass, you’re working hard in the vineyard and then making the wine it’s very rewarding.” says
Graydon Ratzlaff, Recline Ridge Winery, Shuswap
“The grape growing year starts in the wintertime we start by pruning the grapes. It’s one of the most difficult processes because you have to know what you’re doing.” says
Bobby Gidda, Volcanic Hills Estate Winery, West Kelowna.
In most wine producing regions, winter is a time for rest. Once harvest is completed, the vines lose their leaves and go into dormancy. Cellars are full of wines resting in tanks or barrel waiting to be bottled. In the vineyard, crews may prune last year’s growth as the grapevines get ready for the new season.
Winter also means Icewine! Although winter is a time for rest for most wineries in BC, some ten to 25 wineries each year produce the liquid gold known as Icewine. To make this renowned treat, vintners must wait until the temperatures plunge below -8°C (17.6°F) before they can harvest the frozen grapes. This can happen any time from November to February.
In the spring, the vines begin to wake after their winter hibernation. New leaves form and by May new buds emerge. Budbreak is the start of the annual growing season. Though the weather is warming, the chance of a spring frost is always on the mind of the viticulturists as these new buds would easily be damaged and lost for the season.
At the end of spring and into early summer, the grape flowers form and are fertilized. Once fertilized, the flower begins the transformation into a grape, also known as fruit-set. During this time, the weather is critical as poor elements ̶ freezing temperatures, hail, excessive rain ̶ could reduce the fruit-set. In mid-summer, grape clusters appear on the vines and the vine’s canopy is abundant. In order to create optimal conditions for ripening, vineyard staff may start to remove unwanted leaves to allow more exposure to sunlight and will begin to remove fruit from the vines that did not set properly. Commonly referred to as “dropping fruit”.
It’s time for those grapes to meet their maker! The grapes will continue to hang on the vines until the winemakers and viticulturists determine that they are ready to be harvested, waiting for optimal sugar and phenolic ripeness, which means any noticeably bitter flavours have softened. Once the grapes are ready, harvest begins! Typically, this will begin in mid-August and can last into early October.
Gift Giving – Ageabilty of B.C Wine
In British Columbia, there is tremendous potential for aging wines, both white and red.
Reaping the rewards of a bottle well held for whatever the occasion; a birthday,
a holiday celebration or just making it to Friday night.
Peter Van de Reep shares expert recommendations for wines that stand the test of time.
Bring BC VQA wines home for the holidays; perfect for on the table or under the tree.
Look for holiday specials at Save-On-Food locations, to help with your gift giving receive 10% off
when you buy 4 bottles or more, plus $12 off with the purchase of 12 bottles or more!
A Wine Expert – in your pocket.
Can’t visit just yet? Make sure whatever you drink comes from your local farmers and winemakers. Download the Wines of BC Explorer app and take the taste test to uncover personalized recommendations, best-of lists, events, and shipping promotions. It’s FREE to download.