More than 350 wineries spread across British Columbia are actively monitoring their vineyards, looking for signs that it’s time to harvest grapes to make the 2021 vintage. Vintners are keeping tabs on sugar and acidity levels – sugar levels increase and acidity decreases as grape ripen – as well as flavour and seed development in a bid to determine the best moment to bring in their fruit. This year’s harvest got off to its earliest start on record in August, but rain and
cooler temperatures have slowed things somewhat.
With more than 80 different varieties planted in more than 900 vineyards that spill over more than 10,000 acres, there’s a lot of ground to cover – and it’s impossible to make blanket statements regarding B.C.’s wine country. Conditions in the Okanagan change dramatically from Vernon to Osoyoos, which is home to more than 80 per cent of the province’s vineyards, to say nothing of differences between Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley and the Lillooet. That said, an almost-universal theme this year is that wineries are facing a third short crop in a row.
Due to unseasonably hot temperatures when grape vines were flowering, fewer clusters of grapes formed. Winemakers are happy with the quality potential they’re seeing, but they wish grapes were more plentiful. There are also continuing concerns about potential issues with the quality of the wines due to exposure to smoke created by this summer’s wildfires. Last year, the yields in the Okanagan Valley, and the other interior regions, were down by 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
Running short at a time when interest in the wines made in B.C. continues to increase – both across Canada and internationally – means that consumers will need to monitor the releases from their favourite wineries almost as closely as the vintners watched their vineyards come to fruition.
This week’s recommendations feature nine wines from B.C., many of which were tasted last week during The Globe and Mail’s Okanagan Valley Wine Tour.
Phantom Creek Estates Merlot 2018 (Canada), $42
This refined and fruity expression of merlot is produced from Phantom Creek’s vineyards on the Black Sage and Golden Mile benches in the southern Okanagan. There’s a charming mix of floral and spice notes that adds interest to the ripe core of dark fruit. A supple texture and nicely balanced structure (thanks to fresh acidity that counters the sweet ripe fruit flavours) make it approachable now, but I suspect this will reward your patience if you choose to cellar some bottles to enjoy later. Drink now to 2030. Available direct through phantomcreekestates.com.