A DAY 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.
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.
As the weather becomes colder a period of winter dormancy for the vines begins. Winegrowers now look to the essential activity of winter pruning, which sets up the vine for next year’s growth and keeps the plant in optimal health. Harvest extends into the winter for those who intend to produce Icewine, known as ‘liquid gold’. A rare and renowned treat, some ten to 25 wineries each year leave grapes on the vine and wait for temperatures to drop to -8°C (17.6°F) to harvest and press them while frozen, extracting a concentrated and flavourful juice.
When the hard (but rewarding) work of harvest is done, the work of crafting grape to glass has just begun. Winemakers are busy in their cellars over the winter months: tasting, blending, and getting ready to bottle those first and exciting spring releases (whites, rosés, and some sparkling) and shepherding their red wines to age until deemed ready for bottle.