Grape growers in the Okanagan region of BC are looking at a reduced yield of up to 30 percent as workers bring wine grapes from the vineyards during the annual fall harvest.
While an unprecedented summer of record heat and extreme drought conditions contributed to the smaller wine grape crops, those same growing conditions helped to bear fruit that winemakers are excited about. special way.
“I’m very optimistic about what will come out wise for quality for 2021, despite everything Mother Nature has thrown at us this year,” said Barclay Robinson, a major winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards, Oliver, BC
“I’m seeing fantastic flavors across the board in our whites and rosés and then the reds coming right now.”
Its wine and vineyards are located on the Golden Mile Bank, a sub-wine region in British Columbia on the western slope of the Okanagan Valley, south of Oliver.
Temperatures peaked at 40s C for several days in late June – a crucial time in the growing season as grape vines go from flowering to fruit set.
“With that heat, the plant basically stops,” Robinson said. It is not maturing, it is not growing because it cannot draw water and nutrients from the ground at all. “
Heat stress has led to a set of bad fruits – which occurs when a fertilized flower begins to develop seed and grape berry – and reduced yields in some varieties.
According to British Columbia Wine Growers, yields have fallen by 15 to 30 per cent this year.
The continued hot weather during the summer – coupled with the drought conditions in the region – resulted in a smaller fruit on grape vines but a strong concentration of flavor in the fruit, Robinson said.
“That concentration of flavor will yield fantastic wines for 2021,” he added.
‘Mother Nature helped wines this year’
A few kilometers away, Balwinder Dhaliwal is also anticipating an excellent vintage from this year’s crop, despite lower yields.
Dhaliwal grows about 200 hectares of wine grapes, which he sells to wines around the Okanagan and uses to make wine at his family’s Kismet Estate Winery.
“Mother Nature this year helped the wines,” he said. “I think this is the best vintage since we’ve been doing it, almost 25 to 30 years.”
Red wine grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz have especially benefited from the hot, dry summer, Dhaliwal said, noting that the concentration of flavors will light up the palates of customers in the rooms. of wine tasting.
“People who know wine and love wine, they can definitely make a difference this year,” he said.
Miles Prodan, CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia, said growers across the Okanagan are reporting similar stories of lower yields but high-quality wine grapes as they bring the harvest from the vineyards.
The Okanagan Valley, which stretches over 250 kilometers, is home to 86 percent of BC’s vineyard area.
A region suffered widespread smoke from fires in the summer
Last summer, the valley was covered in smoke for days after day by many wildfires in the region.
Fire smoke can tarnish the taste of wine when compounds in the air from burning trees and soil sit on grapes that are still on the vine.
Prodan said he is not hearing from winemakers who are worried about the smokescreen of wine stains in the 2021 vintage.
“The interesting thing about smoke stains is that they really vary on the concentration of smoke, where the smoke originates from and what step in the growing process the grapes are,” he said.
A fire that burns near a vineyard, with ash falling on the vine and bunches of grapes, is far more disturbing than smoke hanging only in the air throughout the valley, Prodan said.
Winemakers also have ways to treat smoke compounds during and after fermentation, Robinson said.
“At 13th Street, we didn’t see extreme smoke so tainted that it would affect not inserting a block of vines, so ours were very light cases,” he said.
“It’s something we can definitely work with and still get a very good quality product, for sure.”